Sunday, July 17, 2005

Those who can't, critique.

Not nearly enough camping has been going on this summer, so when we ended up with an unexpectedly free weekend, we went to Palo Duro Canyon. Its only an hour from home and is the second largest canyon in the United States. Check out this website for a really detailed description. You can see the canyon for yourself if you watch the final scene of Indian Jones and the Last Crusade. They filmed the riding-off-into-the-sunset scene at Palo Duro.

We also got tickets for Texas Legacies. It is the play, now in its third season, that replaced the Texas Outdoor Musical Drama. This year is the 40th anniversary of the huge amphitheater with a canyon wall as a backdrop and the low-brow musical history show in the foreground.

I have seen "Texas" at least a half-dozen times. The show was always more of a place than a play. It wasn't great drama, it was great staging. On the other hand, there were likeable characters, athletic dancers and pleasant, if forgetable, music. The story presented a "cliff" notes version of Panhandle history told in the story of a pioneer town's patriarchs. Not bad.

This was my first time to see the new play, "Texas Legacies".

When I was in school, seventh grade included a year-long course in Texas history. We all made diaramas of the Alamo or the birthplace of Sam Houston or the
Southfork Ranch. (Well, maybe not the last one.) "Texas Legacies" may well be the dramatization of a seventh grade history class research paper.

Legacies uses the same plot as the original play - tell the story of local history through reminicense of the pioneering couple who tamed the land and became benevolent cattle barrons. Then they pack in all sorts of fragments of history. None of the fragments give enough history and none of the characters have enough character. The historical snipettes are told in flashback. (I love how "young" Col. MacKenzie was actually just "shorter" Col. MacKenzie.) The non-flashbacks are flat-as-the-caprock strings of cliche that barely attempt to tell a story, they just segue to the next flashback.

Really and truely - the first play wasn't that great either. We kept going back for the scenery not the scenes. This play doesn't attempt high drama either, but somehow its outdated predecessor, with its 1950's style story telling had sort of a retro appeal, if nothing else. "Texas Legacies" updated the 1950's special effects and some of the 1950's story-telling style, but didn't replace it with anything better.

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