IF YOU GO
What: Mythology - in an Old West setting - with music
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, January 11 at The Community School of Naples, located at 13275 Livingston Road
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12; 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13; and Saturday, Jan. 14 at The Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center at 2301 First Street in Fort Myers
Cost: $20 adults, $10 children; liveactionset.org (click TICKETS AND TOUR INFO)
On the Web: Get more information about "The 7-Shot Symphony" and read their press release at the Stage Door blog.
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"The 7-Shot Symphony" fired hundreds of "bullets" from their finger guns across the stage at Sanibel's Community House Sunday. Bad guys fell like drops of rain. Also dead? Any notion that theater has to be boring, conformist or safe. This is the wildest ride you'll go on for a while.
"The 7-Shot Symphony," subtitled "The Kickass Cowboy Show," comes from Minneapolis-based group Live Action Set. Joanna Harmon, a 2004 graduate of the Community School of Naples, serves as the group's executive director. Live Action Set is touring the show in Florida (dates in Sanibel, Naples, Fort Myers and Miami) and across the Southeast during Minnesota's miserable winter.
The show takes myths - Odin and Fenrir, Orpheus and Eurydice, trickster Anansi, the Gilgamesh Epic - and translates them into the America's Old West. Barefoot performers don cowboy hats and dusters as they roam Deus County ("deus" is the Latin for deity, get it?) and shoot, live, love, drink and ride. This is kind of like "Deadwood," without the paint-peeling language.
Minneapolis country band Tree Party collaborates on the show and provides live music; Tree Party members Jenna Wyse (you'll love her shy mail-order bride take on Eurydice) and Joey Ford act in the show and play instruments. Their music cradles the show in a twangy bowl of honky tonk sound, heightening and enhancing the action. It sounds exactly like a Western should - right down to the coyotes howling across the desert.
More than mere acting, the show is intensely physical, acrobatic and based as much in the art of dance and pure movement as the spoken word. In trying to duplicate the feel of spaghetti Westerns and the epic nature of cowboy films, performers work to bring a cinematic feel to the show - all without the use of props.
For example, four performers link arms - and a lone rider (two fingers) appears. He climbs peaks (elbows) and enters valleys. Arms become swinging doors to the Underworld Saloon run by Hades - there's even a scene where a character enters the "door" - and the cast rotates 180 degrees to show both the "entrance" from outside the saloon and the subsequent "swish" through the doors on the inside. There's even a slow motion bullet fired from a finger gun - and time slows during a firefight for this.
Why seven shots to this symphony? There are seven movements, each punctuated by one bullet that means more than the others.
There's a rough through-line built around Hades and his saloon, Tom Orpheus and stolen bride Eurydice and the evil Styx Railroad company (they've already corrupted the town of Valhalla and are working with local madam Ishtar to destroy Uruk). Yet, each story stands alone.
While other stories, particularly Odin or the moving Gilgamesh (a brilliant gunfight scene, complete with clanging percussion), give the group a chance to showcase their skills, the Anansi myth represents perhaps the fullest realization of this melding of movement and theater.
Anansi was the trickster spider from West African lore. Four members of the group stand in a line - and fan their arms to create the eight-legged spider imagery - carrying it farther during a surreal card game when you're never sure which arm (leg?) is playing which hand. The main tale - brought to life by Mark Benzel (Anansi), Dustin Suggs (a bullying Tiger) and Emily King (a wily, slithering Snake) is simple but fun.
There are slow spots. The novelty, creativity and innovation goes a long, long way - but the first half can feel something of a slog. The story of Odin and Fenrir, while it crackles with bullets and bombast, can sometimes favor atmosphere over action. Some of the wordless segments (a frantic chase and a cliff dive) also come off less than understandable - although this was partially a function of the awkward high stage at the Community House that had the audience looking up at the performers.
Cowboys? Check. Gods? Check. Country music? Check. Finger guns? Check. Pulse-pounding excitement? Check. Horses, railroads and stagecoaches? Check. Bullets? Flying through the air. "The 7-Shot Symphony" lives up to its subtitle as a "Kickass Cowboy Show" - and then some.
Take a ride on the Styx Railroad. They've got killer prices. Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.