Dead Man's Shoes Reviewed
Well, shut my mouth, were we wrong! Dead Man's Shoes (by local playwright Joe Zettelmaier) is not only a fine Western, it's found a way to make its low-tech staginess into a virtue. It's presented as a kind of medicine show, with hand-cranked scenery, and each scene foretold in song, the way Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye sang out the story of Cat Ballou. The wide-open spaces aren't needed, because most of the story is set in jails and broken-down saloons. Actors make their own sound effects--nary a door opens unless someone backstage is making a creaking noise. Dead Man's Shoes isn't exactly a spoof on a Western but more like a loving tribute writ joyously large.
Like many a good cowboy yarn, it's a tale of two buddies who are opposites in every way. These two are Injun Bill Picote (Drew Parker), a man of few words, in single-minded pursuit of the man who killed his best friend; and his sidekick Froggy (Aral Gribble)--words seems to dribble from him like water from a leaky canteen, and he can't see farther ahead than his next meal. The plot twists are best kept fresh, and in any case there are too many to describe. Too many to watch? Possibly, but what scenes could be cut? The hilarious bit where Froggy finds himself in a bordello--oops, don't want to give too much of that away--could probably be dispensed with, but it's one of the funniest scenes in the show and provides grist for many subsequent jokes.