A Western (Action Hero)
Metro Arts, Basement Bar
September 10 – 28
Generally speaking, I hate shows with audience participation, where all eyes are on one audience member to perform (no pressure). When involvement is collective, however, it can add a whole new dimension of merriment to an entertaining show. Such is the case with Action Hero’s “A Western”, which allows its audience members to relive childhood amusement as they engage in gunfight standoff and collectively ambush a cowboy entering a bar, bombarding him with a barrage of fake bullets, complete with ‘pyow, pyow’ sound effects.
This is about as sophisticated as “A Western” gets, and therein lies its appeal. The premise is simple. With a cowboy hat and tomato sauce, two actors, the hero and the whore, re-create scenes from an imaginary western. A bicycle becomes a horse, audience members become cheats in a card game and are collectively silent when the hero enters the bar. Indeed, it is interactive group fun of the simplest and most rewarding kind.
“A Western” is part intimate theatre, part event. It is a casual theatre experience, with audience members seated around a bar area and encouraged to move about during the performance, especially, for example, when their table is about to upturned after a card game gone wrong. This clever architecture of the space to become dusty street as much as western salon, makes for a chaotic but engaging display of familiar iconic spaghetti western scenes. And it is up the epilogue monologue to suggest the grandiose landscapes unable to be accommodated in the space.
As a concept, it is a little absurd, however, in reality, “A Western” is a clever deconstruction of the western genre. More than this, however, it is an experience that encourages nostalgic reminiscences of childhood play and therein lies its success.