Last chance to see guns a-blazin' and spurs are a-janglin' at Yuba City, a Western shoot-`em-up at Chicago's National Pastime Theatre. This ain't a John Wayne, romanticized version of the American Western landscape. Nope. Yuba City, which opened Aug. 27 and ends Nov. 2, takes a darker, more realistic look at the Old West.
Set in a "wannabe mining camp" in the late 1800s, Michael Sokoloff's very physical drama is directed by Laurence Bryan and features live music by the band, Milk Baby. Film clips are also incorporated into the production, which was the idea of director Bryan. "I was performing with a Cowboy Stunt Show one summer in Virginia," he told Chicago critic Mary Shen Barnidge (in the early fall issue of This Month ON STAGE magazine). "We watched a lot of Western movies that season, and there was one I really wanted to do in a stage version. So last year, I started a copyright search and we began filming in Arizona. From the beginning I wanted to incorporate film into [Yuba City], because I wanted to bring that scope, and that space into the theatre."
Although Bryan was eventually unable to get the rights to that script, he contacted playwright Sokoloff and they shaped their own idea for the production, with Sokoloff writing the first draft in 12 days.
"I like a very physical play," Bryan said, "with people fighting for good reasons -- fighting for their lives, fighting for their dreams, fighting to protect what they have. I think that struggle is still a part of our lives today, but the western setting permits the characters to fight in a savage and desperate way."
Noted fight choreographer Steve "Omms" Ommerle is handling that chore for Yuba City, which includes one three-on-one scuffle Omms calls, "the Moliere and Curly Fight." Omms also appears in Yuba City, alongside Richard Atwater, Dominic Conti, Dado [sic], Kirsten Fitzgerald, Michael Hargrove, Arch Harmon, Andy Rothenburg and Sarah Walsh.
Designing this tale of "Greed, Guns and Gold" are David Storms Denman (sets), Stacey Rich (costumes), and Heather Graff & Dan Tamarkin (lighting).
For tickets ($6 opening night; $12-15 other nights) and information on Yuba City at National Pastime Theatre on North Broadway through Nov. 2, call (773) 327-7077.
--By David Lefkowitz