‘When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder?’
If there is one word to describe this play, it is intense. This classic from playwright Mark Medoff is full of brusque thematic elements, dark twists and unexpected turns.
“I saw this play many years ago and have always wanted to do it,” said director David Edgecombe, who is also a theater and dance professor. “The time seemed right, I am very excited about this.”
The play is set in a little New Mexico diner in the early 1970s. The plot details the events of a hostile, bizarre and sporadic diner-takeover.
The play opens at an early hour in the diner with the titular character, Red. He sits at the counter smoking a cigarette, drinking a cup of coffee and despondently reading the newspaper — then in bustles the late and flustered waitress, Angel. As the waitress apologetically makes conversation with the disgruntled co-worker, it quickly becomes evident that she is in love with him. He is oblivious to her affection and probably couldn’t care less about her.
The play’s cast consists of eight actors. Three of them pull central focus: Stephen, (Red Ryder) a despondent and outspoken youth who thrusts his emotions on the world, played by Chris Evans; Angel, the whimsical and energetic waitress who is secretly in love with him, played by Aspen Murray; and Teddy, the raving ex-war veteran who changes their lives forever.
With the exception of Angel, whose character can be overly sensitive and swooning, the acting was quite believable. Granted, Murray had quite the job cut out for her. But in the tenser moments of the play, her hysterics only seemed superficial when great depth of character was a necessity.
The opening scene’s conversation between Angel and Red also seems to run quite long. However, the dryness of this interaction beautifully sets the stage for an interesting segue to the cacophony that follows, and that [that… mood? Chaos? Style of segue?] is perpetuated throughout the remainder of the play. Whether or not the writer originally intended this as an emotional dichotomy is unknown, but it does the job quite effectively.
Just as the audience settles in for the most boring two-way dialog of all time, the tables (no pun intended) are violently turned with no end in sight. You will be uncomfortable, entertained, impressed, disgusted and stretched over the course of this play. Because of this, the play is a definite success, conveying complex and contradictory emotions within a storyline that seems all too bizarre.
Including a ten-minute intermission, the show runs just under two hours and is immaculately staged. Through the combined efforts of Edgecombe, Scene Shop Manager Adam Klein, Scenic Artist Daniel Glen Carlgren and a slew of other dedicated and visionary individuals, the UAA Harper Studio Theatre (Fine Arts Building, Room 129) has been absolutely transformed. The set design is beautifully executed.
When you attend this play, you feel as though you are watching from a corner booth, as if you are a part of the play, a bystander who is lucky enough not to be noticed in the midst of the disastrous events.
Tickets range from $10-$17. For further information call the UAA Box Office at 907- 786-4849 or visit http://www. uaa.alaska.edu/calendar/mastercalendar.cfm/.