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Cowpokes

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The Geldings takes its title from an aptly named band of brothers. Handsome Flem (Rob Beams), Fat Floss (Marty Aikens) and Forlorn Ross (the scene-stealing Rachel Craw) Gelding are rootin', tootin' ranch hands straight from Central Casting of a Wild West show. Only all three of them are anatomically incorrect.

Having its world premiere at Jack in the Black Box Theatre Company, The Geldings brings a balls-out -- so to speak -- level of commitment to a weirdly raunchy concept that runs roughshod over gender roles and Western cliches.

The Gelding boys face their loss of the family ranch to a drought, unless Flem can seduce a lonely "widder-woman" (Lisa Parks) and tap her spring-fed well. Double-entendres grow thick on the ground as Flem and his emasculated brothers come up with detachable means to fulfill their manly duties. Here, machismo works in mysterious ways: Flem finds a temporary virility that lets him face down the dastardly Big Pete (Shaun Easter), but Floss gets his ardor so fired up that he doesn't chew the scenery, but literally humps it.

William Seebring's script essentially consists of a string of running gags, of the sort you'd expect from the creators of "South Park." The Geldings would be little more than an exercise in bad taste if the playwright and company didn't take such a good-natured approach to its inquiry into masculinity. Beams makes Flem a wholesome heartthrob caught in a pornographic predicament, while Craw, an actress playing a young man, sums up the play's sexual identity crises with nearly every line.

Given such an outlandish premise, it's not surprising that the creative stamina drains out of the play's second act. Crazy Ma Gelding (Claire Brown), snipping a huge pair of scissors at the audience, merely provides some rote Lorena Bobbitt-style castration anxiety, and the climactic revelations seem to take forever. Until then, The Geldings proves weirdly likable, and we hark to the ballads of Craig Glassco's singing cowboy, who asks whether the measure of a man is in his heart or in his pants.



The Geldings plays through Jan. 4 at the Top Shelf space of Dad's Garage Theatre, 280 Elizabeth St. Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m.; Sun. 5 p.m. $12. 404-589-8330. www.jackintheblackbox.com.

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