IF YOU GO
What: Wagner's Ring Cycle set in modern-day Texas, with just five actors and lots of jalapeños, cowboy hats and Southern-fried fun
When: 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday from Feb. 17 - March 17.
Where: 2200 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel
Cost: $42 for adults, $20 for children 16 and under
Information: BIG ARTS Marks Box Office at (239) 395-0900, Strauss Theater box office at (239) 472-6862 or bigarts.org
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SANIBEL — What happens when you drop Wagner's Ring Cycle into Texas? You get cowboys, Valkyries, gods fishing in the creek and a shotgun double wedding with tons of barbecue and jalapeños. The high satire, big laugh show is called "Das Barbecü" - and it lands in Southwest Florida this month.
BIG ARTS Herb Strauss Theater artistic director Justin Cowan saw a production at Triad Stage in Greensboro, N.C. and resolved to bring the show to Sanibel.
"I remember leaving the theater thinking "I haven't laughed that hard in a long time," Cowan said. "The script is incredibly funny and clever, and the one liners will literally leave you in stitches."
Here's some sample dialogue for you: "I tell you - this weddin's come down us quicker'n a dust devil on a crippled gopher."
Don't like that one? There's a punch line that ends "Poor Momma never could find the clutch on her sex drive..."
"I hope audiences come expecting to laugh," Cowan said.
Fear not non-scholars, no knowledge of opera, Wagner or busty ladies with horned helmets is required.
"The authors of 'Das Barbecü' adamantly describe the show as an adaptation, and not a parody," Cowan said. "Much like you don't need to know anything about 'Romeo and Juliet' to enjoy 'West Side Story,' you don't need to know anything about the Ring Cycle to enjoy 'Das Barbecü.'"
So what is it about? Love. Greed. Big hair. Guacamole.
Yep. There's even a comical love paean to the avocado goo, a zany, infectious ode with lyrics like "peel 'n' pit 'n' pound it slowly / make a batch from scratch an' you'll agree / it's a hell of a del-i-ca-cy!"
But there is something there - an epic love tale between Siegfried and Brunnhilde.
"At it's core, 'Das Barbecü' is a fable of love conquering greed," Cowan said. "The plot of the Ring Cycle is extremely convoluted and confusing, but the actors let you know that from the moment the show starts. When you get done watching the opening number you will know what kind of night you are in for."
Cowan also promises that audiences will love "Barbecüe for Two," which features jilted brides Gutrune and Brunnhilde commiserating over food. Here's a taste: "When your wedding day's a sham / and the bridegroom's on the lam / yes Virginia, there's a ham / to help you wallow with every swallow."
While the Ring Cycle has an enormous cast of characters, "Das Barbecü" does it all with five actors.
"The number of characters that the actors have to portray and the costume changes are astounding," Cowan said. "I walked away from the show feeling like I had been on a roller coaster."
Beyond the silliness, there is a little bit of a message, even if - as Ring Cycle fans know - true love might not conquer all.
"As fun as the show is, it's not all fluff," Cowan said. "There is a great message about love and greed that is impossible to ignore.