Loveless Texas was apparently inspired by Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour Lost. Now that you know, forget it. Comparisons are sketchy.
King Loveless Ferdinand Navarre (Darren Ritchie) and his younger brother Berowne Loveless Navarre (Joe Joseph) own a Texas ranch. According to the Press Release, though not mentioned in the show, when the boys lost their parents on an oil rig accident, King left college to take over. Straight-laced and responsible, he manages day-to-day operations while making regular “donations” to authorities in order to keep his dissipate sibling out of various clinks as the kid tears through his trust, liquor and women. (Nifty headlines are projected, but what we see looks squeaky clean.)
Randy Costard (CJ Eldred), King’s right hand man, is superseded by Pastor Joe Don Armado (John Herrera), an itinerant “shepherd of lives” with agile tongue unshowcased by the librettist. Boyet Duke Dumaine (Colin Barkell) and Kyle Bubba Longaville (Brett Benowitz) are Berowne’s sidekicks.
Colin Barkell, Brett Benowitz, and Joe Joseph
It’s 1929. When the trio of young men run out of money and return home, King offers three-year job contracts on the condition they swear off booze, gambling, and women for the duration. Boyet and Kyle will not be allowed to take advantage of the deal without Berowne, who adamantly refuses until told he’s getting cut off. (The Great Depression seems only to serve as a reason the young men accept King’s job offer.)
Subplot: LaReine Beausoleil (Trisha Jeffrey) is married to Leroy something whom the Navarres hold in high regard. Why? (Get used to asking this.) She wants to buy a piece of land/seemingly dead claim from King because…Leroy has a hunch? Why? Navarre Senior agrees with a handshake, but subsequently withdraws the deal when an oil gusher comes in. This complicates his serious attraction to LaReine’s daughter, Gwen (Kimberly Jajuan).
Bligh Voth, Amanda Lea LaVergne, Trisha Jeffrey and Joe Joseph (center)
Meanwhile, a group of husband-hunting girls are increasingly in the vicinity – the first time because King asks them to a barbecue. Why? These are Annette (Kathy Bridge), Maria (Bligh Voth-good voice), Boyet’s spitfire sister, Jacquenetta (Chase Kamata), and leader of the pack, Rosaline (Amanda Lea Lavergne).
Will couples – note equal numbers – get together? Will the Beausoleil’s lose their land? Will King put business priorities aside and find his heart? Will Berowne grow up?
Cailin Heffernan’s Libretto is full of holes. Clarification is so absent, my companion had no clue about the sub-plot at intermission. Distinctive personality and emotional moments are washed over. Concentrating too much on stage movement, Heffernan’s Direction doesn’t flesh out out characters. Choreography, however, is cute, using the small space and limited dance skills with an adroitness that doesn’t rob the production of spirit.
Joe Joseph and Amanda Lea LaVergne
Henry Aronson writes appealing, head-bobbing Texas swing, bluegrass, Cajun waltz and two-step with clever lyrics – upbeat and ballad alike. Creole French is deftly, if occasionally excessively integrated. A few songs are crammed with information better shared in the libretto. Aronson has talent. There’s much here, but it’s overshadowed by other issues.
The night I attend, Loveless Texas runs 2 hrs 45 minutes plus intermission. It contains incidents that could be combined or merely referred to and an endless wedding (of minor importance) allotted three numbers. Forty-five minutes could easily be cut maintaining integrity and helping the story.
Voices are good; acting is mostly surface. Darren Ritchie (King) can both sing and act. His credibility anchors this production. Joe Joseph (Berowne) delivers bright and jaunty, but struggles with seriousness beyond petulance. Kimberly Jajuan (Gwen) is sassy and fresh. In attempting Texas twang, Amanda Lea LaVergne (Rosaline) screeches.
Scenic Design by Evan Hill would be better served without David J. Palmer’s distracting, seemingly hand-crafted Projections.
Cheryl McCarron’s Costumes are very fine. The bride’s white cowboy boots are inspired. Dresses flatter, fit the era, and look attractive beside one another (often an issue). I don’t understand the inclusion of a pair of polka dot shorts, garter belts are not worn over panties, and the young men’s disguises are ludicrous, ruining an already poorly written scene. (I have a feeling McCarron is blameless here.)
Voice and Speech Coach Theresa McElwee does a good job. If accents are off, consistency masks it. Sound Design (Ian Wehrle) rides roughshod over dialogue with music, releases intermittent static, and loses at least one singer almost entirely.
Photos by Yadin Photography
Opening: The Cast
Boomerang Theatre Company presents
Music & Lyrics by Henry Aronson
Libretto by Cailin Herrernan
Directed by Cailin Heffernan
Henry Aronson-MD/Arrangements/piano, Gary Bristol-bass, Marty Cutler-Banjo, Ann Klein-guitar, Kenny Kosek-fiddle
Through September 24, 2017
The Sheen Center
18 Bleeker Street