Surely there are better unproduced plays out there.
The Girl of the Golden West is like one of those one-reel, D.W. Griffith westerns from the 1910s: the only woman in Cloudy Mountain, known simply as The Girl (Catherine Brookman), falls for a notorious bandit named Ramerrez (Tom Hennes), angering The Sherriff (Starr Kwofie) who has always been in love with her. As a short film, it would probably be entertaining for its over-the-top performances and primitive cinematic technique, but would no doubt exhaust its material before its eleven minutes were up. As a seventy-five minute musical, it is unspeakably boring, chock-full of repetitive, unremarkable songs, embarrassing performances, and the most woefully uninspired direction this side of the Santa Fe railroad line.
This cardboard cutout of a genre play is staged in the New Ohio Theater, though it could be performed at the front of a bar for all the use the actors get out of their space. Scrunched together by two musicians and surrounded by negative space, they recite lines so lifeless we think that they must be ironic. But there is no trace of humor—or passion—in The Girl of the Golden West. A typical exchange, between Ramerrez and his dying father: “Mi hijo, you promise to carry out my wishes after I am gone? / I swear it. / My son, I am a bandit. / A bandit? You, father, a Ramerrez, a bandit?” The scene is peppered with pointless, fourth-wall breaking addresses to the audience, such as, “The old man pointed to the crucifix,” or, “The son sprang to his feet,” though playwright Jeremy Bloom, not the first to steal from Brecht, never justifies these meta interruptions, and they serve only to tire an already soporific audience. We certainly didn’t need any reminders that we were watching a play and not real people—the godawful writing handled that one just fine.
To call The Girl of the Golden West a “mess” is to imply there was material here in the first place that has been ruined. There isn’t. This year’s Ice Factory Festival has featured several high-concept plays that haven’t lived up to their premises—Flying Snakes in 3D!!!, The Apocalyptic Road Show with Your Hosts Gdjet and Lulu—those, I think, were “messes.” This, on the other hand, is about as tedious as it gets. Not smart, not funny, not interesting, not worth it.