By Alexa Solis
Two young men stood at the outer edge of a darkened stage. Audience members mingled and chatted, and a couple of performers bounced about proposing quick games of blackjack to anyone who wanted to participate.
A moment later, the performers looked at each other and looked at the time. They rushed down to the stage and tucked themselves behind a couple of drums. The two young men, standing at the edge, leapt to the center of the stage. The lights came on, the piano started up, and the show began.
“Wild Oats,” an energetic tale of a saloon centered family reunion of sorts, is the sixth play of the Brüka Theatre’s 2014-2015 season, and by golly is it a fun romp through the annals of time. Written by James McLure, the play is an adaptation of a play by the same name by Irish writer John O’Keeffe.
Centered around an aging colonel Thunder and his wily progeny and relations, the play is a wild and witty look at the west and Americana. It is filled with twists and turns of fate, flamboyant singing and many a pun. The play itself is silly and sticks to the farcical nature of McLure’s adaptation.
A kind of no-holds-barred acting is required for a play of such ridiculous proportions to work. For the most part that was not lost on the castmembers of “Wild Oats.”
Actress Sharon Dummar played an enthusiastic Kate Thunder. Every movement and every word was made to be larger than life. In truth, there is no other way to play the educated western heiress that just cannot conform to the East’s manners and airs. Dummar did exceedingly well in her portrayal of the well-intentioned if uncouth Kate.
Jack Rover, played by Dustin Burns, was another character played quite well. The unwitting yet brave Rover was one of the protagonists that the audience so vehemently cheered for. Burns’ portrayal of the actor, a mocked profession in the wild west, was earnest and filled with livelihood.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the character of Harry Thunder, whom was missing the sort of enlivened acting that made the rest of the play so much fun to watch.
The actors were not the only ones having a rollicking good time. The audience was incredibly participatory in the play’s action. Though they were prompted by cue cards held up knowingly by the actors on stage, the audience cheered, sang and “galloped” along with the actors. The audience jeered at the villains and praised the heroes with such gusto that there could be no question as to whether or not the play was being enjoyed — it most certainly was.
“Wild Oats” was also rather funny, something that not all comedies manage to accomplish. The jokes were not groundbreaking or edgy, in fact they were the complete opposite. Bawdy and reminiscent of Shakespeare’s use of innuendo, the jokes held a universality that made them accessible to the entire audience rather than a select few.
Though the humor in the play ran the risk of being too cheeky, it never crossed that line. Instead of each pun eliciting a groan from audience members, each was delivered with a wink and a nod from the actors. The self-awareness of the actors lended itself to the likeability of the play as a whole.
The play is self-aware in its intentions. It does not suffer from any illusions of grandeur, but instead revels in its farcical nature and exploits that to make itself as ridiculous as possible. The characters are frivolous and more often than not, vacuous but each character lends itself to the greater delirium of the play.
Plays are often overlooked as a method of entertainment, especially by college students, but they serve as a refreshing way to spend a Saturday night. Only a little pricier than a movie, “Wild Oats” is definitely a must see.
Alexa Solis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @thealexasolis.