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Panhandle Slim and the Oklahoma Kid

a Drama w/ Comedy & Music
CATEGORY : DRAMA MUSICAL
by Jeff Daniels

COMPANY : Georgia Ensemble Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Georgia Ensemble Theatre and Conservatory [WEBSITE]
ID# 4116

SHOWING : September 01, 2011 - September 18, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Return to the days-gone-by of the American Wild West in this fresh new play by film and Broadway star Jeff Daniels. Thrown together by unfortunate circumstances, an ornery vagrant outlaw and a singing cowboy argue the virtues of mayhem, music, true love, and the meaning of life as they try to live by the cowboy code. This prairie showdown features original songs, as well as scoundrels, six-guns and a horse named Buttermilk.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Robert Farley
Woman Laura Floyd
The Oklahoma Kid Rob Lawhon
Man Geoff McKnight
Panhandle Slim Ryan Richardson
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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In the Meantime
by Dedalus
Monday, September 26, 2011
3.5
Howdy, y’all! Wanna hear ‘bout how Panhandle Slim was gunned down and tossed into the desert so’s the buzzards wouldn’t get hungry? Wanna hear how he lost his one true love when his own bullet went a-wanderin’? Wanna hear the Oklahoma Kid strum his guitar and sing a few purty songs ‘bout redemption and salvation and all sorts of mystical whatnot?

Well, I’m afraid you cain’t. Y’see, I sorta kinda dawdled my way over to Roswell for this purtickaler show, then sorta kinda dawdled my way when it came time to write up my thoughts (of all the best vices, I like percrastination the best – you can look up that reference tomorrow – or whenever). The upshot is, this show is over, done, hopped the first stage outa town, ambled into the sunset, moseyed over to Boot Hill, is pushin’ up the sagebrush, and is ticklin’ the cactus from unnerneath.

Maybe some time, someone’ll put it back on stage (the flat kind, not the rollin’ kind), and you’ll be able to see it. In the meantime, let me tell y’all ‘bout this purtickaler show, now a memory that grows smaller and whispier ever’ day.

So, are all of us, even the worst of us, worthy of redemption? That’s the question at the heart of this whimsical little confection by Broadway and movie actor Jeff Daniels (“Fly Away Home,“ “Dumb and Dumber,” “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” “The 5th of July,” and many many others). The play opens on a dusty and forlorn desert, snakes rattlin’ in the corners, Spanish ruins lookin’ for all the world like a graveyard. A dune climbs slowly towards Stage Left, so’s you know someone’s eventually gonna do some sorta symbolic “climb to glory.”

A man in black pulls a body on stage, unceremoniously dumps it by a gravestone-lookin’ hunka stucco rubble. With a spit ‘n’ a sneer, the man in black stalks off stage, never to be seen again. But that’s not the end! We hear distant hoof beats, and a man on horseback (well, a horse looking like those in “Spamalot” ) “rides” on stage. He is dust-free, dressed in tight teal leathers, and carries an awfully sweet-soundin' guitar. Yes, my friends, this is the Oklahoma Kid, the singingest cowboy ever to ride a three-octave range, come by to help Panhandle Slim cross over to the other side (for the dying man is indeed Panhandle Slim -- the man, not the legend).

And for the next ninety intermissionless minutes (which, if I recall my schoolmarm’s lessons, is about the same as 450 “Coyote Minutes”), we watch the Kid and Slim recreate that horrible day when sweet Annabelle came betwixt Horse Face Johnson and that wayward bullet from Slim’s Colt 45. Horse Face sure-as-shootin’ had it coming. Annabelle sure-as-shootin’ did not.

Will Panhandle Slim be redeemed so he can join his sweet Annabelle in the sweet hereafter? How can the Oklahoma Kid pass on forgiveness when Slim can’t ever forgive himself? And, in the final scene, who is gonna ride off into that everlastin’ sunset, climb those symbolic sands to glory? The answers may surprise you.

Alright, this is a slim and slight entertainment, a tall tale that could stand a little more exaggeration, a tuneful songfest that could use a little more song, a “Twilight Zone” pastiche that could use a little more woo-woo weirdness. Still, I thunk it were a pleasant diversion, not too long, not too dull, a few songs that were likeable (“In the Meantime”) if not memorable, a lesson in fate and forgiveness that makes its case simply and likeably. It boasted a colorful quartet of talented singers and actors (Rob Lawhon as the Kid, Ryan Richardson as Slim, Geoff McKnight as Horseface and others and the sweet-voiced and sweet-faced Laura Floyd as Annabelle and Mama). It boasted a design team that created an evocative Sooner State-scape (Jonathan Rollins on set, Mike Post on lights, Thom Jenkins on Sound), and it had a costume plot by Linda Patterson that nicely melded the contrastin’ worlds of rough-and-tumble real west, perhaps deceptive memory, and singing-cowboy-movie fantasy.

Which is as good as sayin’ I liked this show but didn’t love it. Mebbe if Mr. Daniels had given Panhandle Slim more to do than just lie around and die, like p’r’aps some test or action he had to take ‘r do to earn his redemption, or if he had given the Oklahoma Kid a darker side that hinted that Slim could be “shepherded” to a warmer and less pleasant ever after should the need arise. I don’t know. Maybe if it felt more like a tall tale than a Western Kumbaya campfire, or if it had touched an emotional level slightly deeper than “’ain’t that nice” pleasantry,

In any case, Mr. Daniels does show a flair for character and dialogue and song, so I have high hopes for future work from him. I even have hopes that one day, he may even send this’n wanderin’ through his word processor for a plot upgrade. In the meantime, “Panhandle Slim and the Oklahoma Kid” meanders nicely like a lazy river, when I would have preferred if it had bubbled and foamed like a white-water rapids.

But, by my reckonin’ y’all’ve missed it (unless you didn’t). So, we’ll let this memory wash through the levees of our theatre year as it wanders slowly into that final delta where all memories are resolved or forgiven or punished.

But, I digress.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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Slim Pickin's; No Kiddin'
by playgoer
Sunday, September 11, 2011
2.0
Jeff Daniels' "Panhandle Slim and the Oklahoma Kid" is being given a lovely production at Georgia Ensemble Theatre in Roswell. The set, lighting, and sound scheme are all exquisitely professional (although the wildlife sounds at the start seem a little, well, active for the desert). This is a beautiful production to watch, with some exquisite stage pictures.

Unfortunately, there are words associated with this production too. A lot of 'em. The premise is of a man shot half to death, slowly dying in the desert, visited by memories of his past and the sunnily upbeat Oklahoma Kid. While the premise has a sweet, somewhat sentimental payoff at the end, it's a long slog to that point. The show could be more successful if the action were streamlined into an hour, instead of being stretched out to its current ninety minutes, with a second act perhaps devoted to songs performed by the talented cast. Rob Lawhon (the Oklahoma Kid) and Laura Floyd (the Woman) have voices that thrill, and Ryan Richardson (Panhandle Slim) sounds purty darn good too, when he's not trying to croak like a parched, half-dead gunslinger. Their voices blend very well.

Audience members are fidgeting and leaving early. At curtain call, I don't know that I'd ever seen such a motion-filled standing ovation, with people rising and filing into the aisles while the cast were still onstage bowing. This is not a show that captures people's imaginations at the outset, or even midway through. It's only in the last ten minutes that things come together in a way that maintains interest.

It's very easy to imagine Jeff Daniels spouting the lines he has given to the Oklahoma Kid. They have the rhythm and flow we've come to expect from his film appearances. That is not meant to take anything away from Rob Lawhon's charismatic, good-humored performance. It's just that, in taking the "name" Jeff Daniels and affixing it to its season opener, Georgia Ensemble Theatre has chosen material that is not as strong as it needs to to maintain its subscriber base.

The songs written by Mr. Daniels are pleasant, if unmemorable, and certainly have the feel of the Old West. The guitar picking of Rob Lawhon is impeccable, which along with his voice makes the songs sound better than they perhaps are. This is not a standard musical, with different characters expressing themselves in song. It's just that the Oklahoma Kid can't help himself from musical expression of anything that pops off the top of his head.

The whole script has the feel of having popped off the top of Jeff Daniels' head, moseying along in its telling of the story instead of using judicious editing to point and polish the show. There's an entertaining show dwelling within "Panhandle Slim and the Oklahoma Kid," but it's not one designed for a large house and it's not the one stretched out to be a full evening's work. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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