The empty space

Cowboy Void

By Gary Craig
Directed by Denny Martin
Oblyque Productions
Common Basis Theatre
Non-Equity production (closed)
Review by Jade Esteban Estrada

Although Oblyque Productions' recent debut of Gary Craig's Cowboy Void didn't present the most fluid of scripts seen this season, it did showcase some performances of a deftness that made the wandering plotline work no matter what.

Brad McLaughlin (Randy Alan Oliva) is the owner of a run-down building that he inherited from his father. Although he had aspirations of working in show biz, he "did the right thing" and took on the family business. On this particular day, his grade-school teacher, Melanie Andrews (played coldly by Judy Stone), has come to see one of his apartments. He believes that fate has brought them together again so that he could ask her why he was not allowed to perform a number from Jesus Christ Superstar (the score is played throughout the piece) in grade school. They are joined later by Virginia, a neighbor (Sadie Reeves) who eventually reveals that Stone was fired from the school for having an affair with a fellow teacher. The second act closes with a shooter (Robert Branigan) who holds them hostage at gunpoint. The last half of the show revolves around the shooter's asking each of them to confess to secrets. He eventually confesses that he was molested, and this is the reason he has gone insane.

Although the story about Oliva and his need to get resolution is compelling, it is never resolved in a satisfactory manner. In fact, all of the focus shifts to the shooter in the second act, leaving Oliva's character out in the cold. This choice leaves the audience with lots of questions about his conflict with Stone.

Director Denny Martin made good use of the cold and empty space (this theatre is a set designer's worst nightmare) but set a rhythm of dialog that was slow-paced.

Lighting (uncredited) for the show was natural and serene until the curtain call, when the brightest fluorescent lights in the world blinded the audience, causing the patrons to grimace as they clapped.

Set design (no credit given) was minimal, with the exception of wallpaper put up every night that Branigan, in the final scene, ripped down in a fury, to reveal photos of his father's nude victims.

Costume design (by Martin and Branigan) was believable and appropriate, especially for the shooter, who wore clothes reminiscent of a Lower East Side drug pusher from the 1980s, and Reeves's older-woman outfit.

Oliva, whose monolog at the top of the show was interesting and even-paced, provided admirable moments in the show. Also, Branigan was a breath of fresh air with his level of volume and energy, which was on low for most of the other actors. His character was the most engaging and interactive. Stone's portrayal was so severe and lacking in warmth that it was surprisingly charming (in the same way that audiences couldn't take their eyes off Vanna White).

Box Score:

Writing: 0
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Sets: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 0

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Copyright 2003 Jade Esteban Estrada