Theater review: 'Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage' where Wild West meets 'Evil Dead'
Part satire, part parody, part high camp, part lowbrow, with gore galore, the sum of the parts of "Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage" screams Renegade Theater.
It's is one of those shows that would cause many other theater companies to run for the hills. Renegade, however, doubles down, brings in their big-gun actors and takes the audience on a bucking bronco ride.
After retiring from the rodeo circuit, Big 8 (Mary Fox) has opened up a tacky ranch hostel where she provides "healing" to convalescent rodeo cowboys like Rob Bob (Joe Cramer).
Things go off the rails when the aptly named She-Devil (Kyliah Thompson) crashes the scene in search of Big 8's son, Lucifer Lee, who She-Devil loudly proclaims has left her pregnant and downtrodden.
Toss in Black Dog, a Ukrainian drug-dealing biker from hell (Evan Kelly); Big 8's mild-mannered butcher sister Shirl (Katy Helbacka); and Shirl's dim bulb boyfriend Baxter (Zachary Stofer), and the stage is set for an evening sure to please and offend at the same time.
A number of alumni, back from last season's gore-fest, "Hand to God," are old hands dealing with onstage carnage. Any show that lists a Blood Designer job (Anika Thompson) as part of their creative team means business.
The blood flows freely and often. Folks seated in the front rows may even get the occasional "arterial" spray, though the management assures that the stage blood is washable.
The cast is uniformly strong, each getting their moments for black comedy gold. Fox has perfected the wild-eyed wack-job role, commanding the stage in her every sashay across the stage. Cramer manages to be equal parts adorable and creepy, bringing down the house when he moseys on in wearing a jockstrap with his "caboose" on full display.
All Stofer has to do is make his entrance, bowlegged in his shorts and cowboy boots, his hair sticking up like a cactus, to cause an audience uproar. He is at his manic and comedic best as he innocently ends up knee deep in the bloody mess.
Though he only has a few ridiculously accented lines to say, Kelly's portrayal of a crazed one-eyed villain begins with an explosion of an entrance and then builds from there. With her "throwed-up strawberry milk shake" colored wig a-flyin', Thompson plays She-Devil as a nasty human tornado, leaving chaos in her wake.
Helbacka charms as the sweet, rosy-cheeked sister who just happens to know her way around a meat cleaver. Her skills get put to the ultimate test in one of the most gruesome theatrical scenes of my recent, and maybe even long-term memory.
Somewhere in that final roundup in the great beyond, Zane Grey, Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy are aghast. But for those who like their comedy raunchy and their horror bloody, director Andy Bennett and his rootin'-tootin' cast serve up a hog-kicking good time.
Caution: Not for little buckaroos or the weak of heart. Contains extreme scenes of violence, profane language, sexual situations and partial nudity.
If you go
• What: Renegade Theater's "Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage" by Jane Martin
• Where: Teatro Zuccone
• When: 8 p.m. Oct. 5-7, 12-14 & 19-21
• Tickets: 218.336.1417 or at renegadetheatercompany.org