Sneak Peek by Laurel Humes of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: Falcon Theatre
When is the last time you have seen a Western produced on stage? Like, never?
Well, get ready for Falcon Theatre’s production of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, opening Jan. 27.
The play by (ironically) British playwright Jethro Compton was first staged in London in 2014. There is plenty of source material: a 1953 short story by Dorothy M. Johnson, which also was the basis for the 1962 movie starring James Stewart and John Wayne.
Falcon director Tara Williams said that while the stage and movie versions of Liberty Valance share the same story, the play is “more truthful and the people are closer to real life.”
“Many Western films are full of stereotypes – the bumbling marshal, the woman saved by a man, the hero who is John Wayne playing John Wayne,” Williams said. “These characters, in this play, are not like that.”
The plot begins with the arrival in the dusty Western town of Twotrees by young scholar Ransome Foster (played by Craig Branch) from New York. He arrives beaten and bloodied, possibly at the hands of outlaw Liberty Valance. Foster will become friends with saloon owner Hallie (Erin Carr) and her employee, a young black man Jim (Derek snow). Other key characters are local gunslinger Bert Barricune (Allen R. Middleton), in love with Hallie; Marshal Johnson (Terry Gosdin), and, of course, Liberty Valance (Michael Hall). Cincinnati audiences may also recognize local director and actor Ed Cohen as the narrator.
Although the setting is that mythical “Old West,” the play’s themes are relevant today, Williams said. The woman is a business owner, making real choices. The black man is in danger because of his race.
“These characters are relatable. This is a story about people and how we treat others,” Williams said. “The good guy does win, but not necessarily the way you think.”
Playwright Compton was asked in an interview, “How do you put a cowboy on stage?” There will be no horses on the Falcon stage, no stagecoach robbery. But, Williams said with a laugh, “When you give an actor a gun belt, they all turn into 12-year-old boys again.”
The play will be highlighted by live music, including the Gene Pitney song “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (try to get that out of your head now!).
And, Williams promises, we will learn who did shoot Liberty Valance. It may not be who you think.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance opens Jan. 27, then runs weekends through Feb. 11 at Falcon Theatre, 636 Monmouth St., Newport. Tickets are available at 513-479-6783 or at http://falcontheater.net.