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Red Ryder

UAA Department of Theatre and Dance





Mark Medoff

 Runs April 5 - April 21


Reviewed by Robert Pond

The theme of the mysterious stranger who comes to town creating havoc and the unveiling of a tired community has been basis of western movies since that genre tried to grow up.  So, it is with Mark Medoff’s stage play, When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder? It’s not a new plot idea but ‘Ryder is certainly a brutal theatre piece as seen in UAA’s latest production directed by David Edgecombe.

The setting is a sleepy greasy diner in New Mexico during the early ‘70s, peopled by sleepy people who look like they long ago missed the train of time.   The first impression for the audience is the very well designed set.  It belies the escape from the sixties and the remnants of Eisenhower deco.  It’s an arena that reminds one of the diner-bar in the film The Wild One and its prison like feel.    Despite implication of once warm colors, the setting speaks of a sad and neglected place, all of which is a credit to scenic designer Daniel Glen Carlgren.  The set grows on you and you begin to want that sloppy hamburger and fries.  The scenic projection of the exterior and the movement of the sky is the promise of a hope and possibly an escape for those that become trapped.

The production takes a while to get on step, but it is well worth the wait.  The lonely folk who occupy the diner include the waitress, Angel, nicely played by Aspen Murray, who is a romantic; Angel only wants to be loved.  Then there is the Fonz-like character Stephen, the off-duty cook known as Red, who is performed by the convincing Chris Evans.  Stephen desperately wants to escape his perceived purgatory but he has yet to take the first step or to know why.  The nearby gas station operator, Lyle (Michael J. Hidalgo), is a de facto guardian of the group and limps through life physically as well as emotionally.   The diner’s owner Clark is performed by Seth A. Whipple as a man who never met a cash register he didn’t like.  Add the customers, Clarisse (Lisa-Marie Castro) a gifted violinist and husband Richard (Alex Albrecht) who are also drawn into the vortex as created by Teddy and his hippy girl friend, Cheryl (Terra-Sang Patrone).

When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder? depends on, -and is centered on- the drug smuggler, Teddy (Caleb Bourgeois).  He is one of the walking wounded from the Viet Nam experience.  Success of Red Ryder depends on many contributions of talent, not in the least of which is the level of acting in the role of Teddy.  Caleb Bourgeois gives a powerful performance as a predator of the weak.  He works so hard at acting and his monster-like energy succeeds in frightening us all.  Director Edgecombe deftly creates the plausibility of a horrific surrender to evil.

The UAA production, When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder? is a good opportunity to see some promising talents, on and off stage, at work in an artistic laboratory of learning.

One Response leave one →
  1. April 15, 2013

    Your reviews are always thought provoking and well written.
    Thanks Bob,
    David Edgecombe

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