Fringe 2009: Review—”Winnemucca (Three Days in the Belly),” Five stars

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by Matthew A. Everett | 8/1/09 •

A Play So Good I Wish To Hell I’d Written It

“I was bad luck. Something dark about me. They knew it. I knew it.”

Shelby Company

Winnemucca (three days in the belly)

single white fringe geek is the blog of matthew a. everett. in addition to being one of seven bloggers covering the minnesota fringe festival for the daily planet, he blogs throughout the year about theater and culture.

This is the kind of play that so completely overloads my brain, it’s almost impossible to put all the reasons into some coherent form. It’s just about beyond words. If I could put it into the perfect words, well, I’d probably have written the play myself. I wish I had. It’s a damn good script. One of the best I’ve read in a long time. But playwright Dan Moyer found the words. And blogs aren’t supposed to be perfect. They’re blogs. So on we go.

The outline is simple – A windowless hotel room in Winnemucca. A man, Jonah (Grayson DeJesus) – beaten and bruised – running from a mission he didn’t ask for and doesn’t want. Another man, Big Chet (Will Brill), wields an aluminum baseball bat, and keeps Jonah locked in that room, determined that Jonah fulfills his mission whether he wants to or not. A woman, Suede Lucy (Jenni Putney), an exotic dancer in a nearby club, channels desires both earthly and divine for both men.

None of these people are exactly what they first appear to be. Layers keep peeling off them. New depths and stranger motives are revealed. Sympathies and realities shift. Director Wren Graves and the cast, supported by producers Brian Hedden and Nathaniel Kent and stage manager Abby Slawik, take Moyer’s script and make it unfold just like it needs to. It justified their place in my Top 10 list, and lived up to the peek behind the curtain I got at the Out of Towner Showcase.

The reason this is just my kind of thing, and why I find it so enormously compelling to watch, is that it gets all the pistons firing in my brain on subjects like the nature of good and evil. Right and wrong. Does anyone really need saving? Can anyone be saved? Isn’t there a sort of ridiculous arrogance involved in the notion of anyone going out into the world as a missionary, to try and help (or worse, tell) other people how to live their lives in a better way? Who determines what’s better? What’s ideal? What if there is no God and there is no Devil? No heaven and no hell? But there are laws for a reason. Everyone has their own notion of what’s right and what’s wrong but there are certain basic things that everyone gets together on, right? Certain things are good. Certain things are bad. Certain things you should do. Certain things you shouldn’t. It can’t all just be moral relativism, right? Or relativism without the “moral” at all? Right? Right?

On the other hand, if you’re not just existing, if you’re not wasting the little time you have breathing on this planet, then you want to be doing something. You want to feel like you have a purpose. That what you chose to do has meaning. That it impacts other people in a meaningful way. Where do you find that? What do you do when someone or something comes along and turns you inside out and points you in a completely different direction? Do you fight the unknown, the unknowable? Do you resist leaving everything you ever knew or felt comfortable with behind? Do you try to take it with you into your new life? If you can’t, how do you choose what to leave behind? Whether or not to go? Do you regret what you don’t do? Or what you choose to do? Do all your actions have consequences, not just for you but for others? And are those consequences acceptable? How do you find the words when there are no words?

Mom asked me to just map it out for her, A to B to C to D. What happened? What happened is pretty basic. What it means, is huge. It’s probably different for every audience member. It depends on your angle of sight. I want as many other Fringers as possible to see this thing (and it closes Wednesday), because I could sit at Fringe Central and talk about this thing over a drink until even the staff at Bedlam had to kick us the hell out because they needed to go home and get some sleep, to close the place in order to justify the notion of opening it again.

Because this is the kind of thing I go and sit in the dark in a theater to see.

And it’s gonna haunt me.

Very Highly Recommended.

Today (Saturday, 8/1 at 4pm), Monday 8/3 at 10pm, Wednesday 8/5 at 7pm – that’s it.

Don’t let it get away from you.

Their website – www.shelbycompany.org

Their show page

Their video trailer Travel video #1

Travel video #2

Travel video #3

Fringe 2009 – 8:30 Friday – show #7

Matthew A. Everett is a local playwright and three-time recipient of grant support from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Information on Matthew and his plays can be found at matthewaeverett.com.

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