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A CurtainUp Review
Texarkana Waltz
Oh, my Texarkana baby
Lord I love her la dee da
Her daddy came from Texas
Her Ma from Arkansas

--- refrain from "Texarkana Waltz"
Adrian LaTourelle, Tom Wiggin &Annie Parisse
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
A new producing company called Basic Grammar has set up shop with the worthy mission of supporting new plays that are "smart, language driven and risky but not opaque" while keeping a sharp eye on fiscal stability. Texarkana Waltz isn't exactly new, having already played, and apparently successfully so, in Los Angeles and Seattle's equivalent of Off-Broadway houses. It is language driven all right. A favorite book helps one of its main characters, Houston (Adrian LaTourelle), survive a traumatizing family tragedy and during some Soutwestern style Hamlet inspired scenes that same character often speaks in Elizabethan verse. The play could be called risky in that it juggles a lot of ideas about violence in a macho male environment when "having a bad day" can turn a lover into a killer without a soul.

There's certainly a compelling drama lurking in this family tragedy that recounts the events leading to an inexplicable murder witnessed by the victim's children and then attempts to put that violent act into context and show those children's struggle to recover -- the boy through his Wild West fantasy life as a young gunslinger helping his hero Cowboy Bob (Tom Wiggin) hunt down a villain much like his father Eddie (Jesse Lenat), the girl, Dallas (Annie Parisse), through a love affair with a wise and caring Lesbian (Caroline Bootle). Since music figures importantly enough for the theme song to be used as the title, it would be more accurate to classify this as a play with music.

I wish I could tell you that Texakarna Waltz made me want to waltz right to my computer to sing its praises. Unfortuantely, it isn't as provocative and theatrically adventurous as it sounds. There's nothing to complain about in Allison Narver's direction or the nine actors' grasp of their frontier-sized characters. Michael Brown has created a simple yet versatile weathered wood background, with two sections that conveniently slide open -- the lower door to reveal Eddie in the electric chair that will end his life and the upper for glimpses of the Cowboy Bob Band during its radio heyday, and the ghost of Emma pleading with her helpless son to avenge her. As needed, Brown, who also does the lighting, turns that back panel into a skyscape. Louisa Thompson's costumes are also just fine.

The problem with Texarkana Waltz rests with Louis Broome's over-reaching script. His marriage of Wild West comedy and Elizabethan tragedy is a mishmash of ideas that smack more of every cliche in the book than any profound insights about life love, good and evil on the modern frontier. The lapses into Elizabethan verse are enough to make Shakespeare shiver in his grave. The music, also written by Broome, consits mostly of the title song, a Hank Williams derivative that is reprised with such aggressiveness that Broome seems to will you to "love it la dee da." I didn't. Instead, by the time, the show was over I was inclined to sum it up with a stanza of my own:
Oh, My Texacarna Baby,
Lord, it bored me, La dee da,
Ambition big as Texas,
Pleasures small as Arkansas.

Texarkana Waltz
ritten by Louis Broome,
Directed by Allison Narver
Cast: Tina Benko, Caroline Bootle, Adrian LaTourelle, Jesse Lenat , Denise Lute, Chuck Montgomery, Annie Parisse, Tom Wiggin.
:Set and lighting design Michael Brown
Sound design by David Arnold
Costume design: Louisa Thompson
Original music by Louis Broome, with additional music by Jesse Lenat
Running time: 2 hours and 10 minutes, plus one intermission.
Kirk Theater, 410 W. 42nd St. 212/279-4200
11/08/02-12/30/02; opening 11/13/02
Wednesday--Sat at 8:00 PM -- $15.
.Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on November 13th performance.
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