Spotlight: Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage


Her name is Big 8 (Karen Wiese-Thompson) and she lives on a small ranch in Wyoming, where she supplies healing--sometimes sexual--to injured rodeo riders. Her charge at the start of this enigmatic 2001 Jane Martin play is Rob Bob (Josh Jabas), a profoundly dim cowpoke whose primary frame of reference is movie Westerns. Hey, it works for her. That is, until a looming foreclosure begins to burst this cozy bubble, and a young, pierced, pink-haired Shedevil does the rest of the damage. Shedevil, fittingly, seems to be carrying the child of Lucifer Lee, Big 8's son and a lounge singer in Los Angeles. Scarier than Lucifer himself is the homicidal biker Black Dog (Bob Malos) who arrives on a Harley with a thirst for blood and a yen for the cocaine money Shedevil has stolen from him. By the time this rollicking Theater in the Round production is through, we've dispensed with all notions of decency in a work that mocks Westerns, the West, squeamishness, jockstraps, itself, the audience, itself again, and finally all pretensions of Judeo-Christian fairness. In other words, it's as much fun as I've had in the theater all year. Malos is shot, stabbed, and shot again, in a blood-soaked sequence that becomes funnier the longer it plays out. Wiese-Thompson shouts and rails in a comic redneck accent, all the while creating a sympathetic portrait of amoral pragmatism. Jabas is dead-on as a dangerous dullard whose moral understanding of life involves determining the "good guys" and "bad guys," pretty much without regard to their actual actions. Following the intermission, Black Dog makes a series of improbable comebacks, and Big 8 (of course) finds a way to keep the bank from taking her spread. This is a work that revels in its warped path to the cliché of a happy ending, thumbing its nose at sincerity and authenticity, dressing its stage in bones and body parts.