Saturday, April 27, 2019

Sam Shepard's BACK BOG BEAST BAIT at The Yard

In November, 2018, Actor/Mentor/Director Darrell Larson gathered together a group of actors who came to be kown as The Scavengers: a line taken from Sam Shepard's play Back Bog Beast Bait.  Through some trials and tribulations, the core group, wound up workshopping the one act, one of Shepard's more esoteric theatricals.  To call this play "esoteric" is a far cry from accurate. Bizarre. Outre. Outlandish if we are bound by words.
Cecilia Fairchild as Gris Gris photo credit Melanie Fairchild
 Shepard's energy permeates The Yard, a funky old performance space on Melrose.  The spirit of the playwright, poet, actor is palpable as the audience settles in. A golden presence appears high above the stage.  The Ghost Girl: Ren Farren Martinez's voice fills the space. It's Sam's voice really wondering how in the world to get back to Tennessee and if anyone will recognize him if he makes it.
The setting: a run down shack in bayou country where Maria  (Tali Forest-Smith) answers the bolted door with a shotgun at the ready.  In stumble Slim (Stan Mayer) and Shadow (Abe Martell) two gun totin' roughnecks who, evidently, Maria has hired to rid the neighborhood of The Tarpin, the Beast of the Back Bog, an inhuman creature who is on the road to destruction of the human race. 
The boys make themselves at home and the dialogue gets wonky.  Shadow is a young pup: a bull rider who makes the road his home and is ready for more of the vagabond life. Slim (often thought of as representing Shepard, himself) feels the gravity of time and is ready to hang up his guns before someone younger and faster sends him to Boot Hill.
A loud bang and the door's thrown open. Enter The Preacher (James Bane) torn to shreds and bleeding profusely. He babbles what may be bits of the Book of Revelation.  Incoherent and dying, the boys try to comfort him. Maria has some remedies to bring him back to life.
The story is a crazy one to say the least.  Shadow heads out into the Bog and soon returns with Gris Gris (Beautiful Cecilia Fairchild) riding on his back like a bucking bronco.. Fairchild's inescapable energy boosts the play to a new level. 
She and Shadow bring a bag of mushrooms that Gris Gris has led him to. He swears that they were strewn on the top of a mountain in a land where there are no mountains.  Gris Gris is an enchantress!   Magic mushrooms are consumed by some but not by others as each character now takes on what amounts to an individual line. Ghost Girl (Maria's dead daughter) sings another beautiful lament. 
The disparate elements of each character now roil and rumble in such a way as to practically abandon the actual dialogue as Maria, Slim, The Preacher, Gris Gris and Shadow . . either under the influence of the mushrooms or Shepard's other world sense of story.. unfold. Each actor is in their own world and after Slim heads out into the bog and returns, disheveled and missing his two gun rig, it's every man or woman for themselves.
Live instrumental accompaniment by Paul Lacques on guitar, dobro, and slide guitar subtly underscores the piece, adding to the mystery and the energy of the show.
True West and Fool for Love are more what fans of Sam Shepard have come to appreciate from the genius of the man.  Back Bog Beast Bait is none of the above and must be taken at face value and appreciated for the specific work that the six actors present. Simple lighting by Matt Richter and gorgeous costumes by Melanie Fairchild almost become additional characters in the piece. It's an abstract dance of words and rhythms that enter the mind bypassing the intellect to challenge the spirit.  

Support this new theatre company it's time for new horizons.

by Sam Shepard
Directed by Darrell Larson and The Scavengers
The Yard
4319 Melrose Ave 
Los Angeles, CA 
Seats may be reserved online

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