A Wild West Parody That'll Actually Make You Laugh

Darrett Sanders, Nicholas S. Williams and Alina Phelan star in Rio Hondo.EXPAND
Darrett Sanders, Nicholas S. Williams and Alina Phelan star in Rio Hondo.
Photo by Kevin Sharp

If you’re in need of a diversion in these terrible, wearisome times — and surely we all are — might I suggest Theatre of Note’s uproarious staging of Bill Robens’ western parody Rio Hondo, under the imaginative direction of Jaime Robledo.

The infallibly on-point Darrett Sanders plays Burt McGraw, a world-weary ex-sheriff and gunslinger who wants to hang up his gun but can’t due to the wicked skullduggery of evil outlaw and corrupt new lawman, Diego Sanchez (Phinneas Kiyomura).

Robens’ side-splittingly nonsensical plot embraces just about every Western cliche there ever was, from the sexy dance hall senorita (Grace Eboigne) — paramour of the good guy and then the bad one — to the besieged rancher and upright citizen, McGraw’s widowed sister-in-law Clementine (Alina Phelan), who shoulders a shotgun and trumpets her mission to bring beef to the nation.

Then there’s Clementine’s blind sister Iris (Kirsten Vangsness) still practicing her sharpshooting skills (as everyone ducks for cover) and her two querulous ranch hands (Michael Holmes and Nicholas S. Williams) whose boisterous brawls always culminate in homoerotic embraces.

Gunfights abound, and to get to places the performers mount sawhorses and giddy-up away, their antics underscored by Matt Richter’s sterling sound design, as much a comic player in this outrageous comedy as anyone onstage.

Robledo’s crackerjack staging will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his work (Stoneface and Hearts Like Fists are among my favorites) but that doesn’t make this new enterprise any less a delight. It takes great skill to play goofiness well and with a straight face, and in this wonderfully silly show every cast member steps up to the plate.

Go! Theatre of Note, 1517 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood; through December 20; (323) 856-8611, theatreofnote.com.


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