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BWW Review: Steampunk Fantasy Fun Returns in Pork Filled's THE TUMBLEWEED ZEPHYR

Madison Jade Jones, Linnea Ingalls and Kevin Lin in
The Tumbleweed Zephyr
Photo credit: Roger Tang

Two years ago, if you were lucky enough to catch it, we were introduced to the Wild West, steampunk world of "The Clockwork Professor", a delightful melodrama from the mind of Maggie Lee. Well the denizens of that world continued to have adventures in Lee's mind and now we can all climb on board to "The Tumbleweed Zephyr" for another thrilling escapade.

In case you're not familiar with the folks in New Providence, well it's basically the old west but with a steampunk twist and in this tale the Hernandez brothers, Atticus and Kai (Kevin Lin and Manuel Cawaling), are making a long train journey aboard the Tumbleweed Zephyr to deliver a package to the west coast town of Rumination for Professor Pemberton (whom we met in "The Clockwork Professor"). But the journey is fraught with peril as a mysterious couple (Stephanie Kim-Bryan and Troy Lund) seem to have their eye on the brothers not to mention the ever looming threat of attack from the notorious outlaw, the Steel Fox Bandit (Michael D. Blum).

The show manages to build on the previous installment beautifully but doesn't require you to have seen its predecessor. The tone is a wonderful mixture of old west serial and futuristic technologies, kind of like the series "Firefly" complete with its own version of swearing ("great galloping thunder turtles"). And that tone is only heightened by superb designs from the production team. I especially have to call out the gorgeous costumes from Jocelyne Fowler and the stunning set from Craig Wollam. A set, I might add, that managed a bit of stage magic at one point that caused me to squeal like a little kid. I won't ruin the surprise here but trust me; you'll know it when you see it.

Director Amy Poisson has once again helmed a thrilling story in this crazy world and assembled a wonderful ensemble. Cawaling is delightful as the more flighty of the two brothers and is a perfect contrast to the conservative and by the book Lin. Kim-Bryan and Lund make for hilariously menacing bad guys. Also along for the journey we have the lovely "fraulein's" (we'll just call them working girls) Evangeline and Claire played by Madison Jade Jones and Linnea Ingalls and the uber-efficient conductor Miles played by Tadd Morgan. Jones and Ingalls are fabulous and each switch from giggling girl at the ready to grounded real person with very distinct wants and needs beautifully. And the chemistry between Ingalls and Lin is sublime. Morgan takes on his stalwart conductor with focus and grace and still manages a fantastic twist in his character at the end. And Blum is awesome as the blustering bandit complete with an entrance that any actor would kill for.

It's really just a good time and a great addition to the already fun world. And unlike its predecessor this one has less of the more adult moments and language making this more suitable for younger audiences (it's more PG-13 now) which this world should aim for as it's fun for all ages. And so, with my three letter rating system, I give this a childlike giggle of a YAY. It's a hoot!

"The Tumbleweed Zephyr" from Pork Filled Productions performs at 12th Avenue Arts through August 29th. For tickets or information visit them online at

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