FLAMING GUNS OF THE PURPLE SAGE (World Premiere)
ACTORS THEATRE OF LOUISVILLE
The mysterious Jane Martin is a big winner. On Saturday evening "her" Anton in Show Business was announced as the winner of the 2000 American Theatre Critics Association/Steinberg New Play Prize. So how does Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage, directed by Jon Jory (the former ATL artistic director and Humana Festival founder is presumed by many to be the pen behind the never-seen Martin), sustain the long tradition? Anton was a witty parody about the vicissitudes of producing classic theater in the boondocks that seemed founded on a fondness for and a thoughtfulness about the art form, Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage is a flat-out, over-the-top, I-can't-believe-they're-doing-that comedy.
"Big 8" (Phyllis Somerville) is a hard-boiled rodeo rider forced into retirement in Casper, Wyoming, by an industry that wants youth. She keeps herself busy acting as a "healer" for young riders -- her current project is Rob Bob (Leo Kittay), gorgeous but dumb as a box of rocks.
Enter punked-out Shedevil (Monica Koskey) being pursued by Black Dog (Mark Mineart), a one-eyed, Ukrainean Hell's Angel. When he shows up, things come to a dead stop and really get going.
Added into the mix are Big 8's sister and friend, Shirl (Peggity Price), whose career in butchering is eventually put to horrifying but nevertheless comic use, and her longtime boyfriend, Baxter Blue, an unobservant and more or less ineffectual local deputy sheriff. Comedy, of course, is all about stereotypes, and this script has them in spades.
Martin is a master at comic writing. This show offers little more than that, but it's excellent comic writing. The surprises in the plot are completely expectable, and funny nevertheless. You won't leave the theater feeling much other than some bemused shock at what you've been laughing at, but Flaming Guns is one more demonstration of why Jane Martin's works have been a staple of the Humana Festival for nearly 20 years."
Jane Martin's Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage is a crowd-pleaser that keeps the audience howling. A send-up of B-movie westerns crossed with today's horror/slasher flicks, Martin's outrageous plot has Big 8 (Phyllis Somerville), the dimwitted Rob Bob Silverado (Leo Kittay), a pierced pregnant urchin with hair the color of "throwed up strawberry milkshake" (Monica Koskey), and a Ukranian biker named Black Dog (Mark Mineart), who has allegedly chopped off the girl's arm, pursuing her to recover some cocaine money. Big 8's sister Shirl (hilariously played by Peggity Price) and her deputy sheriff boyfriend of nine years (William McNulty) are drawn into the side-splittingly gross events that follow.
When the Ukrainian biker Black Dog (Mark Mineart) bursts in, bullets and blood start flying. From this point, the play becomes a whole-hog riot of slapstick, satire and black humor. There is no serious point being made here. This is all for laughs, and there are plenty of them.
Jane Martin's new comedy opened last night and spurred the Humana Festival of New American Plays into full gallop.
Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage, the third play in this year's festival, borrows a heap of corniness from B-movie Westerns and mixes in a few pieces (and we really do mean bits and pieces) of horror in this hilarious, rip-snortin' and effusively bloody two-act.
Martin's funny dialogue rolls off the stage like bouncing tumbleweeds as the cast hits all the comic beats under the direction of Jon Jory, former producing director of Actors Theatre and the person believed to be the pseudonymous playwright Martin.
Mark Mineart, whose part is mostly physical, is wonderful as the growling Black Dog.
Flaming Guns has no deep meaning, but who cares. As Rob Bob says, "There's good and there's bad," and this is definitely good.