‘Flaming’ shoots buckshot, guffaws and 2 steely magnolias

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

YOU KILL ME | Two old broads fuel the humor in ‘Flaming Guns.’

On the Board
WESTERN SAGE at Theatre 3,
2800 Routh St. in the Quadrangle.
Through Aug. 8. $20–$30  Theatre3Dallas.com.

Theatre Too bills its season opener, Jane Martin’s Flaming Guns of the Western Sage, as a “B” Western horror flick. But director Terry Dobson has fashioned a play that unfolds like an episode of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman — one of the funnier ones.  The cast delivers a wallop of a comedy with an unexpected amount of blood and gore to go with it. And it is greatness.

Big 8 (Gene Raye Price) is a retired rodeo star working as a rodeo healer, laying her hands on young bucks in all kinds of ways. She tends to rider and airhead Rob Bob (Justin Vorpahl), who lives with her in Casper, Wyo. During a late-night discussion over cowboy movies, belt buckles and rodeos, the two are interrupted by a visit from the frenetic Shedevil (Emily Jackson).

On the run from her killer Russian boyfriend Black Dog (Jordan Willis), Shedevil claims to carry Big 8’s grandchild, but her facial piercings, goth clothes and creepy squeals only raise eyebrows.

The first half of Sage gives a whole lot of exposition albeit with fair amounts of hilarity. The audience roared as the country-fied folk sputtered shotgun-quick volleys of insults, demands and jokes, with Big 8’s sister Shirl (Sally Soldo) joining in the fray. But the banter gets wearisome and in the tiny Theatre Too, the shouting and Jackson’s high-pitched wailing is borderline unbearable as back-story is delivered in oodles. The energy of the cast was both contagious and tiresome. I was worn down enough that I could have taken a nap during intermission.

But the spurs kick for Act 2.  With the inclusion of Black Dog and local cop Baxter Blue (Dan Ramsey), the comedy is amped up by bloody shenanigans. Shirl’s slaughterhouse skills come in handy as folks work to get rid of a corpse.

At the risk of sounding like an ageist, you’d expect the young‘uns of the cast to supply a frenzy of energy, but by this point Sage is Price and Soldo’s show. Their comic physicality could put the Three Stooges to shame.

Price fills the boots of Big 8’s large presence with Paula Deen spunk and Thelma Harper temper. She’s a caricature, but Price still shows a heart and soul in the woman that could’ve easily gotten lost in lesser hands. Soldo’s Shirl matches Big 8’s over the top demeanor, but instead of competing for laughs, works magic with Price. Her bloody facial is legendary.

Vorpahl holds his own with goofy, ditzy charm, but he hasn’t honed Rob Bob enough. His performance is wooden, as if he’s waiting for cues rather than listening and reacting. Jackson delivers a dynamo performance but her shrillness comes annoyingly close to eclipsing that.

There is a patchwork chemistry that binds it all together and Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage ends up being one of the best TV episodes ever seen onstage.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 16, 2010.