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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 29, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 30
Riding the Bull an intriguing production
Arts & Entertainment
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Riding the Bull an intriguing production

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Riding the Bull
Stone Soup UpStage
Through August 13


New Amerikan Theatre, a new group of theater artists who want to produce plays they like, has taken on the challenge of August Schulenberg's Riding the Bull. Schulenberg has written more than a dozen plays, and he's sharpened his wit to the point where this production promises to 'offend everyone.'

If you like arguments over whether there is a God or not and ways of activating both sides of an issue, this play is definitely for you. The two-hander, with Jen Anderson as Lyza Mary and Geb Brown as GL, pits a wanna-be-good Catholic boy against a non-believer 'fat rancher' girl in a love-hate relationship.

Lyza and GL have gone to school together in this miniscule Texas town, and both are outcasts; Lyza because she is so fat, and GL because he's known to jerk off so much (at least that's what the reasons seem to be). Even though GL calls her names, Lyza appears to still have a crush on him, and tells him she watches him at work as a rodeo clown.

During a (creatively imaginary) sex scene, Lyza shouts out a name, and it turns out that the named person wins the rodeo the next day. When she does it again and the next guy wins, she perceives of this 'receiving, maybe from God,' as being an opportunity to make money in the gambling arena. While GL resists because it's a sin, Lyza finds justifications that appeal to his desire to take care of his mentally unbalanced mother.

Soon, GL narrates that their fortunes have changed and they are building an empire on gambling wins, and to assuage his guilt, he builds a new church and a town-center nativity scene of marble. They also build a Graceland look-alike for his Elvis-crazy mother. They even go to the real Graceland to find an Elvis impersonator to bring home to mama, and find someone who thinks he's really Elvis, with an almost plausible story for how he's not really dead.

Everything twists around in the second act, though the justification for it is a bit thin and it feels more like a writing device than a real epiphany for Lyza. But since plausibility isn't the play's strong suit, one's inclination is to allow it to play out.

The production is extremely watchable, as are the two actors. Anderson and Brown have a definite chemistry, though experiencing it in such a tiny space as Stone Soup's UpStage is kind of overwhelming. The audience is inches (not even feet) away from them. Luckily, director Richard Buckley helps them walk the fine line between too much actual sexuality and realizing the play's intent.

Our spring-like summer is a boon to UpStage audiences, since there is only a fan helping to keep the place from turning into a greenhouse. It can definitely feel like Texas in there.

It's an intriguing introduction to Schulenberg, and we can hope more companies are drawn to his work.

For more information, go to www.new-amerikantheatre.weebly.com or www.brownpapertickets.com/event/184991 or call 800-838-3006.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com.

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