This week we bring you the expanded version of my review of The Charleston Stage Company production of “Flaming Guns Of The Purple Sage,” along with a ton of photos, mostly from the April 15 ArtWalk, but a couple or four from other recent coolness. The Cool Comic takes the week off as we gear up for the weekend debut of RFC 98 and some surprise notoriety early next week.
A Bloody Great Time At The Theater
One of the last things I ever expected from the live theater experience was to see a Grindhouse gore flick brought to life, but The Charleston Stage Company has done just that with “Flaming Guns Of The Purple Sage.” This play, written by the mysterious Jane Martin, is a hilarious tribute to the type of trashy, gory exploitation movies that used to bring teens to drive-in theaters in droves (and inspired a legion of filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino). This is the first time I’ve gone to a theater production that made me think of Roger Corman and Herschel Gordon Lewis.
Taking place at the ranch of “Big 8,” a former rodeo queen turned faith-healer to the rodeo stars, a bizarre white-trash soap opera unfolds as Big 8 loses her Cowboy-toy, Rob Bob, to She-Devil, a pink-haired tattooed punkette who turns up claiming to be pregnant by Big 8’s long-lost lounge singer son. This love triangle is headed in a dangerous enough direction when it’s revealed that Shirl, Big 8’s sister, works at a meat-processing plant.
The action kicks into high gear when Black Dog, a one-eyed Ukrainian biker from Hell shows up to reclaim his cocaine money from She Devil. Black Dog just won’t stay dead, and eventually Big 8’s sister, Shirl, and her erectilely-dysfunctional deputy boyfriend, Baxter Blue become hopelessly entangled in the grisly story.
This is not your typical evening at the theater. Director Frieda Forsley has done an amazing job with a technically challenging play. There are parts of the set that get destroyed, more blood than I’ve ever seen on stage, and all sorts of extraordinary special effects. You’ll also see the closest thing to full-Cowboy nudity that has ever been seen in Charleston. Throughout all this, the cast maintains perfect comic timing.
The campy shock value makes “Flaming Guns” do for Southern Trash movies what “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” did for science fiction. This is a ridiculously fun thrill ride.
This cast is spectacular. Kelly D.T. Strom brings Big 8 to life as a cross between Annie Oakley and Large Marge from “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.” Shawn Price is note perfect as the endearingly dim Rob Bob, a Cowboy without a clue. Kim Waybright is striking as the gutter temptress, She Devil.
Julie Marks as Shirl fires off some of the best lines in the play and is a pure comic delight throughout. Greg Stone’s Baxter Blue is hysterical as the deputy who’s not so quick on the draw. Montana Rock makes the most of his brief turn as Memphis Donnie Pride.
Timothy Mace, as Black Dog, should qualify as a special effect himself. He’s a force of nature, tearing the set to pieces and leaving a path of destruction that defines the play.
You know they’re doing something right when they’re performing a dress rehearsal for two reviewers, and both of them are laughing their asses off.
“Flaming Guns Of The Purple Sage” is a brilliant production of a remarkable play. Martin’s script walks the fine line between parody and loving homage, and The Charleston Stage Company brings it to the stage with gusto and a cast that will have you laughing long after you leave the theater. You’ve never seen anything like this on the Charleston stage.
IF YOU GO: “Flaming Guns Of The Purple Sage” can be seen April 16, 17 and 22-24 at 7:30 p.m. at the WVSU Capitol Center Theater, 123 Summers Street Charleston. Tickets are $15, $10 for students and seniors.
THE Benefit of The Week
The April ArtWalk In Pictures
Charleston was blessed with yet another unseasonably warm and pleasant evening for ArtWalk. The PopCulteer eye was everywhere, and here’s what it saw. Presented with as little commentary as I can get away with.
The Purple Moon
A corner filled with delights from Sharon Lyn Stackpole.
A magazine illustration by Fuyiki Barnes, 1940. Still in the railway packing crate.
“The Chalice” by Virgil Cantiel, 1957
Nifty antique tumbler set.
Jewelry by Melissa Tyson.
Sean Richardson of Tofujitsu, as viewed through a display case.
Stray Dog Antiques
The view from the stairs at Stray Dog Antiques.
MarshHouse at GNMG
Chip Tantlinger brought some of the greatest hits of MarshHouse Art to Good News Mountaineer Garage. Check their website for purchasing information.
Visions Day Spa
New Works by Bob Rosier, Ian Bode, Chet Lowther, Gary Stewart and Chad Miller are on display at the day spa/art gallery.
Shawn Romano And Associates Gallery
ArtWalk’s newest exhibitor had great work by KD Lett, Tyrone Scott and others.
Taylor Book’s Annex Gallery
A cool exhibit by Chris Ott dominates the gallery this month, but there’s plenty of other stuff on hand, like Eric Pardue’s pottery, too.
Sheila Caim’s Lightscapes photography is on exhibit at The Art Emporium this month. Sheila asked that her work not be re-photographed (it’s been blurred in the photo below) so I would recommend that you visit the gallery or check out her website. I understand her not wanting her work to be reproduced without her approval, so I suggest that you truck on down to Quarrier Street to see it yourself. It’s very good.
Work by Kathy Boland, Jean Pennington and others is on display at Gallery Eleven in the historic Quarrier Building.
Several smaller galleries located in the Quarrier Building also stayed open during ArtWalk, so check out the action at Studio Chimera, Studio Five, and the dens of Richard W. Cohen and the incomparable Keith Allen.
Newman Jackson (right) under one of his fantastic paintings.
Captain Crash and The Beauty Queen
Wednesdays this month, and Mondays and Wednesdays in May, you can see and hear RFC’s cutest couple at The Fifth Quarter. There’s no cover, and the food is good.
YWCA Past And Present
The East End resale store held an open house to celebrate their recent remodeling on April 10. Here’s a quick look.
Sales Associate Craig Auge and store manager Heidi Richardson Evans.
The Basement Mural.
Next Week In PopCult
Radio Free Charleston 98 will hit, plus our usual features will be here, too. I’m sleepy.