BWW Reviews: BAD MEDICINE Or GOOD TO THE LAST DROP?
There's something comforting about a good genre play or "meller drammer" as Theatre Suburbia calls their annual summer melodrama.
Maybe it's the gags and the slapstick, or just knowing that if you can't go where everybody knows your name, you can, at least, go where you know everybody else's name.
Or maybe it's the simplicity. All you need is a girl in peril. Or rather, it can be simple. BAD MEDICINE, GOOD TO THE LAST DROP ties the whole town to the railroad tracks - the sheriff and his sweetheart, the sheepish doctor, the town drunk and his barkeep sister and, eventually, even the villain.
Bodkin Shamley, a snakeoil salesman with several tricks up his sleeve and a taste for some green - money, that is - arrives in a dusty saloon in Bagwell, Colorado and turns the town upside down.
Can you hear that bubbling sound? I believe it is the plot thickening. Bum bum bum.
Directors Elvin Moriarty and Akia Lorain McPhaul create a fun, family-friendly and energetic production with a touch of twang.
The play is funny and self-aware. While rooted in a classic tale, it has the feeling of something more experimental and exploratory. And the story is Shakespearean, not lazy, in its familiarity. Two weddings end the play even. But the familiarity of the story has its downsides as well. While the audience knows where the tangled web will end up un-weaved, the characters do not. This slows the story down in the denouement when the audience has to watch each of the characters slowly realize their situation. As a result, the resolution takes too long to unfurl. But, it is a joy to look smugly down on the characters while they're haplessly fumbling about and it's telling that I think the last scenes of THE WINTER'S TALE also unfurl too slowly.
Raul Castillo (Sheriff Gene Ranger) has the stiff, wooden walk of Matt Dillon and the accent of Hoss Cartwright. But as the play continues, his energy dips and his accent and movements wane. This means that the production's energy dips. This is a production that thrives on energy - the energy of the scene, the actors, and the audience.
Alex Thompson (Nurse Becky Trueheart) embodies the heroine with her wilting voice, fluttery walk and overly dramatic swoons.
The town characters won me over almost instantly.
Jeff Henninger (Doctor Carl Goodall) injects the production with just the right amount of pathos.
Phyl Deany (Rev Donna Prather) is raised by a drama teacher but I could have sworn she was raised by the baptist church. She's a baptist bible thumper with a heart of gold and a touch of sass.
Iggy Nguyen (Charlie Hamby) is a great asset to the production. When the production slows down, he picks up the speed. If my mind or eyes ever strayed from the main story, his slapstick always brought me back. He gives an enjoyable performance as the town drunk. Also, he and Thomas Ward (Hickory Pickett) have very good Pepé Le Pew and his disinterested, uninterested (and sexually harassed) "l'amour" chemistry that carries their bromance above and beyond.
Pamela Branstetter (Maxine Foreman) is an austere Foghorn J. Leghorn.
Adrian Collinson (Bodkin Shamley) is a devious villain and fun to watch. But at times, despite being instructed not to, the audience drowns out his performance. I think that this is a small price to pay for such an interactive production. Plus, all was quiet, when the cast took old country songs like "Home on the Range" and turned the kitschy classics into the touching, woeful songs they are meant to be.
Last but not least, throughout the play, Alice Smith's live piano playing adds a ragtime feel.
There is something for everyone. Kids from 1 to 92 can "boo", "hiss", and toss popcorn at the villains. Adolescents can moon, if kids still moon these days, over the love story. And if you're too old and crotchety to care about love stories like me, then you can witness the other characters getting drunk, flirting, yelling and all in all having a good time. In the end ... should I say it? I'm gonna say it. In the end, BAD MEDICINE is good to the last drop.
BAD MEDICINE runs at Theatre Suburbia, fittingly at 4106 Way Out West Drive, from July 18 - Aug 23 on Fridays & Saturdays at 8:30 pm, and Sundays, July 27, August 3, 10, 17 at 3:00 pm. Tickets are $16 for adults, $13 for seniors and students, and $12 on Sundays. Group rates available for parties of 15 or more payable 48 hours in advance. Reservations can be made by calling 713-682-3525.