Apocalypse then

Wild Dust

By Flip Koebler
Directed by Kathleen Bishop
Woman Seeking…
Center Stage NY, 48 West 21st Street, 4th Floor (841-0326)
Equity showcase (closes Nov. 3)
Review by Jenny Sandman

An imminent dust storm of near-apocalyptic proportions is threatening a small Western town in 1880. The men have left town to drive the livestock ahead of the storm to safer environs. The women have all been herded into the only brick building in town -- the whorehouse. As the matrons and harlots duke it out amongst themselves, a lonely horseman comes blowing in just ahead of the storm, and the women are forced to give him shelter. He clearly has some secrets he is not willing to share; but so do the ladies. They have just killed their brutish bartender pimp, and must haul his body outside for the dust storm to eat before someone finds it. Unfortunately, someone does.

It is an intriguing story, brought to life by Woman Seeking…, an all-female theatre troupe which performs shows that are all or mostly female. Wild Dust is such a show, with many good parts for women, but the script is not entirely worthy of such strong women. Fortunately, the acting was lively, if over the top at times, compensating for most of the weaknesses in the story. Don Reuter as Cooper, the mystery horseman, provided a nice stability to the cast. The most electrifying scene of the play occurred between him and Hard Cora (Chelsea Silverman), as they argued over which of them was brave enough to venture outside into the storm. Martha Cataldo-Casey as Marion, the head whore, was also quite compelling. Dawn Akiyama, Elizabeth Bunnell, Annie McGovern, Chelsea Silverman, Christine Mosere, Jan Purcell Dashow, and Kristen Cecala rounded out the cast.

The script could have used some judicious cutting; the whole second half of the first act did nothing to advance the story, and most of the arguments sounded rehashed and childish. As a result, the play stagnated, moving far too slowly for a plot that should have moved at a fast clip. A couple of characters could have been excised altogether. The play was overly dependent on cliches and sentimentality, as well. Probably hard-bitten whores of the Old West would not have been so maudlin; there was an awful lot of wailing and shrieking and hand wringing. The direction, unfortunately, was in keeping with the rampant cliches in the script, with too many double-takes and inordinately slow knife fights and the like.

But the cast was solid and the set made inventive use of the small space. The costumes were colorful as well as historically accurate, and the sound (by Kurt Enger), especially the all-pervasive wind, was almost eerie at times. The lighting (by Kelli Lynn Harrison) was creative, if a bit slow. All in all, it was an entertaining production; it’s not often a night at the theatre includes a dead pimp and a group of prostitutes gaily singing "Oh, Susanna." That in itself may be worth the price of admission.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 2
Sets: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2002 Jenny Sandman