“SINCERE EFFORT” BY A NOSE IN THE FIFTH
Sam Shepard’s Geography of a Horse Dreamer offers the lyric combination of the rough and ridiculous we expect of Shepard, with eponymous touches of surrealism. The first moments show a man trapped in a bed while projected hooves gallop on the wall behind him, sepia snippets of the dreams that are his blessing and his curse. The dreamer is Cody (Gavin Robinson), a young Wyoming cowboy kidnapped by gangsters who seek to line their own pockets by using his unique power to pick winning horses in his dreams. Cynical old timer Santee (Mark Vallarta) and the relatively humanist Bajou (Rudy Galvin) are his captors, and they reminisce about the golden days of plenty when Cody called out the names of prize steeds nightly, and the gain of their boss Fingers’ wins trickled down to them in the form of steaks and turtle soup. However, Cody’s skills are waning; prospects bleaken and tempers shorten as the pressure mounts. All seems lost when Santee learns from another one of Fingers’ henchmen that Cody has been demoted to the dogs—literally. Beaujo protests that Cody’s a horse man and as such, “doesn’t know a greyhound from a crocodile,” but the boy makes the switch with success and other unexpected results.
Shepard can make demands of actors and viewers alike, and the cast generally succeeds in performing with a balance of comedy and menace. Kevin Stark’s Fingers provides some tonal variation amid the somewhat stock masculinity; he responds to Cody’s condition with surprising sensitivity, but his mien does not match the terror with which his name is uttered in the first act. Matt Rockwood’s second act performance as the Doctor contributes the magnitude of malice necessary to remind the audience that the business of these men is to enslave and profit from those who dream.
The play oscillates from twisted tragedy to broad farce moment by moment, a balance that is challenging for Mary-Arrchie Theater Company to maintain. At the moments when it falters, the equilibrium was lost by not just by director Carlo Lorenzo Garcia‘s inconsistent tone and the somewhat incongruous presentational style of his actors, but the script—which never really had it in the first place: This is early Shepard, and the touches of magic that characterize his work seem more roughhewn than tuneful. As Cody notes, “It’s very delicate work, dreaming a winner.”
photos by Emily Schwartz
Geography of a Horse Dreamer
Mary-Arrchie Theater Company at Angel Island Theater
scheduled to end on October 28, 2012
for tickets, call phone number 773-871-0442 or visit http://www.maryarrchie.com
for info on this and other Chicago Theater, visit http://TheatreinChicago.com