Written by Elizabeth Ann Foster
You know something is up when there is a stuffed coyote on the bar upon entry to Connelly Theater.
A real taxidermy coyote named Pirate with a bandana around his neck.
Pirate on the bar. Photo credit : Elizabeth Ann Foster.
Enter the theater which transforms into a saloon with David Zinn’s scenic design. The opening song begins on an upright piano in the corner, “a one-horse town where the horse broke down.” Truth. The horse and many other things have and are breaking down in this town.
Tumacho, a possessed demon is thought to be back in town. You know he is returning “when the streets run red with blood and the clouds turn upside-down, then the three-legged coyote howls for… Tumacho,” says Sam (Bill Buell) the oldest member of town. This is a farcical tale of a western town losing its citizenry at the hands of one of its own citizens, Bill Yardley (Andrew Garman). The hapless Mayor Evans (John Ellison Conlee) cannot stop the bloodshed. Only 20 or so of the original 1,000 citizens are left. They look to be rescued by a past demon that has returned according to Sam and will take over one of the last citizens left in town. Who is Tumacho, a term derived from being too masculine – think President Trump.
The original intent of the play is a moral question – can a community forgive and learn from lessons in the past? This rendition says Artistic Director Maria Striar, “After three long years, we have a very different understanding of the need for communities to come together to resist. Now it feels like a joyful way to gird our loins for the coming fight.” The crazy ideas and plots to overthrow Tumacho, resemble the antics of the Democratic Party. Members of the town offer up the craziest schemes to kill Taumacho once the demon has been identified amongst their midst. In this play the citizenry win – but don’t they always when it comes to the ballot box?
Raphael Mishler’s prop and puppet design steal the show. From dancing cacti to a pork roast tartare, much levity was added and made the whole evening endearing. Do not worry if you cannot follow the circuitous plot – you are not meant to. It is slapstick and just plain fun. Witty lines abound throughout as Mayor Evans said, “I learned a long time ago only listen to the things you want to hear.” It is Chappy (Andy Grotelueschen) who wins the wit in the west with his statements on the obvious, “When I close my eyes it is always black.”
The cast genuinely is having a great time performing this play. They must break out of character and loose it at least once a week, this performance they managed to keep it all together. The songs by Ethan Lipton are clever and catchy. One audience member on the way out asked if their was a cast album a sign of a new fan. The town parade at the end was worth waiting for but you will have to go see Tumacho to figure out why it is being held. Recommended if you want a night off from the serious offerings uptown. Tumacho is so silly you develop a soft spot for it. The message of redemption and creating stronger community is not lost and up lifting.
Tumacho – A play with songs by Ethan Lipton
With – Bill Buell (Sam), John Ellison Conlee (Mayor Evans), Randy Danson (Prudence), Gibson Frazier (Doc Alonzo), Andrew Garman (Bill Yardley), Andy Grotelueschen (Chappy), Layla Khoshnoudi (Alice), Matthew Dean Marsh (Pirate) , Phillipa Soo (Catalina), Chinaza Uche (Clement).
Directed by Leigh Silverman; scenic design David Zinn; costume design Anita Yavich and Devario D. Simmons; lighting design Jen Scriever; prop and puppet design Raphael Mishler; sound design Tylee Kieffer; music director Matthew Dean Marsh; stage manager Shelley Miles.
Clubbed Thumb’s return engagement of Ethan Lipton’s Tumacho, first seen in the 2016 Summerworks season, will begin February 17, 2020, prior to an official opening February 22 will continue through March 14, 2020. Connolly Theater 220 East 4th Street NY NY 10009 firstname.lastname@example.org (212)260-0153. Tickets $25 students, $45 general admission and $60 reserved. Each morning at 10am day of performance $25 rush tickets will be available. 80 minutes with no intermission.