Review "Late: A Cowboy Song": Ruhl Lassos the Moon!

Piven Theatre Workshop presents

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LATE:  A COWBOY SONG
At 927 Noyes Street, Evanston
Written by Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Jessica Thebus
Thru August 29, 2010
Buy Tickets
Running Time:  One hour and forty minutes includes a ten minute intermission.

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

'Things have to get ugly before they get nice.'  'To get clear, push the skummy stuff to the side!'  This is true for soup and life.  Piven Theatre Workshop presents the Chicago premiere of LATE:  A COWBOY SONG, written by Sarah Ruhl.   Second grade sweethearts meander into an adult relationship.  She makes money.  He makes dinner.  She's pregnant.  He proposes.  She wants tradition.  He wants tradition too but just on the holidays.  The arrival of a cowboy and a baby changes her conventional desires.  She wants more.  He wants more... of her.   LATE:  A COWBOY SONG is a simplistic look at complications of gender roles.

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Under the direction of Jessica Thebus, marital scenes are quick and intermittently spliced with relaxed cowboy serenades.  In one scene, a hilarious blur of holiday celebrations showcase the evolution of time and turmoil.   Polly Noonan (Mary) comments on the chaos with 'I have no recollection of normal days between holidays.'  Noonan plays the struggling identity chaser with childlike wonder and whininess.  On a horse for the first time, Noonan's face goes from fear to delight with mimed perfection.  Larry Grimm (Crick) elicits laughs with continued doublespeak, 'let's do something small like a big party,' delivered with authentic spontaneity.  Grimm plays the desperate housewife longing for a "It's a Wonderful Life" ending.  Kelli Simpkins (Red) is a guy's guy.  Simpkins IS the fantasized cowboy galloping to the rescue.  She is he.  Thebus uses all the Ruhl's to get at the heart and humor of one woman's quest to be herself.

On the surface, playwright Sarah Ruhl has penned a tale of a cowboy's seduction of a lonely

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housewife.  Below the basic, but funny, dialogue, the complexity percolates with gender bender twists.  Is he for she?  Is she for she?  Is she a she or he?  Taking a description from the play, it's like a plain red and white painting that beckons to be touched to determine its depth.  Subtle nuisances connect together to make for a sophisticated artistic expression.   At first glance, Ruhl's choices seem random.  Why the movie "It's a Wonderful Life?"  Then suddenly, all the pieces slip into place for a Mary-lasso-moon-ah-ha-moment... Nice!   LATE: A COWBOY SONG is an unexpectedly insightful dramedy about defining and redefining self in the pursuit of happiness.    

A Sarah Ruhl fan, Roger describes the show with "subtext, subjugation, subterraneous -mind."

Production photos courtesy of Chris Tzoubris.

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