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Billy the Kid: First Exhumation
The Bodega – at The Trading Post

Remaining Performances:
July 17th, 7 pm
July 25th, 5 pm

They say: Directed by a former member of Herbert Blau’s performance group Kraiken, Redd Shifft tackles similar performance issues, including spontaneous improvisation, psycho-association, physical and vocal reflexivity, all in a highly charged, non-linear context of the body longing to know.

Llewellyn’s take: Be grateful for the Fringe Festival: these experimental theater opportunities that are few and far between in DC.  Dramatic improvisation may not be everybody’s cup of tea for sure, but I like it as a palate-cleanser from a world filled with Legally Blonde the Musicals.

So here we have Billy the Kid: A First Exhumation, a storytelling experiment that delves into the fight-or-flight mentality.  Intertwined with the stream of consciousness re-enactment of Billy’s life are modern tales of revenge and revenge fantasies. Threats punctuate dream sequences while a tense Western gunfight-strum plays in the background.  The characters are there only to mock and threaten each other—-just the way Artaud might have wanted them to.

The acting is best in the monologues, wherein the characters have full range to run free with their emotions, but in between these, the straightforward retelling of Billy’s life is fraught with the caricatures of the old West.  The staid stereotypes of rowdy drunkards and saloon shootouts are so ingrained from TV and radio shows that it’s hard to get past them and find something that doesn’t sound like, “Yew shot mah paw”.  The story touches on a personal side of Billy himself—-that he might not be the gun-swinging archetype people generally assume him to be, but just another person who let his emotions get ahead of himself.  The monologues play off of this narrative in ways that aren’t completely apparent, but they make for a good story.

See it if: You like dramatic improv and a good fight story.

Skip it if: Western accents make you think of Bonanza reruns.