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Panhandle Slim

 

continued

This is not Daniels's best play, nor the best produced. It's all about the words, but lines that sound as if they have some heft don't bear up well on closer examination - they have a funny cadence, or aren't actually that witty. The songs are simple and harmless but don't have the ancient cowboy cult burnish of a lot of others within easy reach: "Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie" comes to mind. Most of all, the love story, which is told in flashbacks, is not only pretty thin but also tilting in sympathy to Panhandle Slim, who is - despite the charm of Whalen himself - a dirtbag. Some disconcerting direction, like an actor pointing at a sunset somewhere over the audience's heads while a shimmering violet and orange light show takes place on the stage behind him, and an entirely undeveloped female role don't help matters.

Daniels fans will love it anyway for its broad humor. And everyone will appreciate that the two principal roles are marvelously cast. Tom Whalen plays against type as a heartless outlaw. There's a kind of wistful sweetness to him, and he's got a lovely baritone (he periodically rouses himself from his job of dying to join in a chorus or two). Seibert, fluid and light on his feet, switches effortlessly between song, joke, and soliloquy, and does an awesome fake-horse-riding pantomime.

[Review published August 2008]    (end of article)

 

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