DOOM MCCOY AND THE DEATH NUGGET
Ochre House Theater
Writer and Director: Justin Locklear
Composer and Musical Director: Olivia de Guzman
Puppet Design: Justin Locklear
Scenic Artist: IZK Davies
Set Engineer: Mitchell Parrack
Lighting Design: Kevin Grammer
Costume Design: Ryan Matthieu Smith
Stage Management: Korey Parker
House Management: Cynthia D. Webb
Saloon Girl/Ensemble: Will Acker
Gambler/Ensemble: Quinn Coffman
Madame Satan/Ensemble: Olivia de Guzman
Marshal/Ensemble: Cory Kosel
Saloon Girl/Ensemble: Monét Lerner
Father Sullivan/Ensemble: Christopher Lew
Honey/Ensemble: Beth Lipton
Bartender/Ensemble: Trey Pendergrass
Medicine Man/Ensemble: Gregg Prickett
Doom McCoy/Ensemble: Chris Sykes
Reviewed Performance: 2/9/2019
Reviewed by Ann Saucer, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The fast-moving story begins with actors storming the stage and lighting the fuse of a black spherical bomb. It is the year 1859. A variety of characters appear to entertain us: the archetypal Western villain, an Irish priest, the trusty marshal and his innovatively constructed posse, a medicine man, Satan, Satan’s sexy saloon girls, and Five Pillars -- which ordinarily exist on a higher spiritual plane but which appear to entertain us with their deadpan wit and “blah blah” wisdom. Highlights of this talented cast include the funny Olivia de Guzman as Madame Satan, and Will Acker and Monét Lerner’s deliciously naughty turns as hellish saloon girls.
Locklear draws elements from the hero-myth archetype, including Doom McCoy’s miraculous yet humble birth, which is hilariously enacted through puppetry and a house that is blown to pieces in front of us. The eponymous Doom is so named because he was born in a tornado, leaving him an orphan. Doom McCoy is, literally, “doomed” because the tornado sucked out his soul.
The character starts as a puppet, so it is a fun surprise when Chris Sykes appears as the naïve and hapless Doom. We see Doom as a real man with his harried wife (Beth Lipton) and Norman Rockwell children (like literally, the kids are Norman Rockwell signs).
Sykes is convincing and adorable as a cute cowboy who, being soulless, never feels the repercussions of his actions. Here, Locklear has fun with a relentlessly irresponsible male character – who actually has an excuse. “Hard to look for trouble when it’s been inside you the whole time.”
Not being weighed down by mortality, Doom also is the fastest rider in the West. After the cast constructs a see saw, the audience experiences Doom’s swooping, soul-free riding. Doom’s riding is more earth bound after his visit to hell. Here and elsewhere, the mechanics of the set and props are masterful.
Doom McCoy tells the story of a tragic hero while simultaneously examining the ways in which stories are told and experienced. As Doom’s story morphs from the man to the legend, the character and the tale are increasingly portrayed with an array of amusing puppets.
The transition between actors and puppets is one way in which the form of storytelling shape-shifts before the audience’s eyes. The art projected onto the covered wagon is another. The images cycle through different genres, from post-Impressionism to American kitsch. One of the many exciting and original elements in Doom McCoy is the variety of ways in which different forms of artistic expression are employed. In addition to projecting paintings and prints, the actors pick up a video camera and project live film of the play. Locklear takes the concept of a play-within-a-play to a new level, with actors at one point operating finger puppets on a mock set while the video of the scene is projected onto the covered wagon. The audience sees the making of the Western movie, while also seeing the movie.
The many technical elements require that the cast operate as a well-oiled machine. The original music and vocals are gorgeous, and the live music is a real treat. The light design impressively accommodates the rapidly changing visual elements, including the ultimate creation of a cowboy constellation as a new sign of the zodiac; a cowboy rides a bucking bronco.
The Ochre House is an authentically intimate space, and I always look forward to how it will be transformed for each original show. This time IZK Davies delivers a glorious set of landscapes and constellations. From the start, the audience can see that a physically expansive tale will play out in a physically intimate space. We are surrounded by murals of the majestic American West, bleeding into a galaxy. At our feet the floor is painted like the cosmos, drawing the audience into the space. An old western style railing transitions to a bar or a porch rail, further making the audience part of the story.
The costumes are hand-painted works of art. Most ensemble members wear shirts and pants designed with muted color splashes, and this basic uniform costume is augmented as they assume new personas. At times, the accessories defining each character are handed out and adorned right in front of us, which is one of many instances in which the Fourth Wall is broken.
If you are an Ochre House fan, then you do not want to miss their latest and as-ever original work. If you have never caught an Ochre House production, then that is a spiritual omission that needs to be remedied! Doom McCoy and the Death Nugget is exciting, transformative, and thoroughly innovative.
Ochre House Theater
February 9 – March 2, 2019
Ochre House Theater, 825 Exposition Avenue, Dallas, TX
For information and Tickets call 214 826-6273 or go to OchreHouseTheater.org