Will There Be Blood in The Coward? Oh Yes.


The folks at Walking Shadow Theatre Company are trying to be coy about some of the content of their latest show, The Coward.

Some of it is out in the open. The play centers on an 18th-century gentle soul who finds that the only way to become a "man" in the eyes of his father and society is fight and win a duel. For this production, the cast has been swapped, with six women playing the men and a single guy taking on the show's one female role.

No, the surprise comes at the bottom of the press release, letting us know that the blood effects will be done by Tyler Olsen and RawRedMeat Productions.

See also: The Whale Enters the Overworked Heart of Darkness

Anyone who's been to the Twin Cities Horror Festival -- and seen the stage almost swimming in blood effects -- knows what RawRedMeat can do.

Director Amy Rummenie is tight lipped about how exactly the blood will play out, but does promise it will be more Monty Python than Sam Peckinpah.

The Coward "is just a lot of fun," Rummenie says.

The script, however, features almost all men. "We contacted the playwright [Nick Jones] and asked him what he would think if we flipped it. He was fine with it. A play about class becomes this play about gender roles and false masculinity."

Beyond the subtext, "flipping the play is fun because the play is so silly to begin with," Rummenie says.

"It let me cast a wider variety of people to see who would have the most fun doing it. The character of the thug isn't a 43-year-old mom, but [the actor] had the right swagger," Rummenie says.

Briana Patnode plays Lucidus Culling, the coward of the title. He's not made of the same, apparent macho stuff as the rest of the men around him. "I know a lot of guys who are similar to him. He is a man who is outside of his world of what men are supposed to be. I know a lot of people who are like that in this world," she says.

She sees Lucidus as a contemporary man who has been stuck in this historical place. "The things that mean a lot to [the other men] and what they are fighting for don't mean a lot to him. He is interested in bugs and beauty," Patnode says.

This kind of perspective can come when a contemporary playwright tackles a historical subject. It also gave the self-professed geeks at Walking Shadow to do some fun research.

"There is stuff about hat taxes in the play. I googled it, and it is a real thing. People were taxed on the fanciness of their hats," Rummenie says. "We also had fun researching the absolutely absurd rules of dueling."

And that brings us back to the blood.

"We're going to have a larger laundry budget and a larger gun budget on The Coward than most shows," Rummenie says.


The Coward Friday through February 28 Red Eye Theatre 15 W. 14th St., Minneapolis $10-$22 For tickets and more information, visit online.