A woman struggles with uncertainties about life and love in the last University Players production of the year, “Late: A Cowboy Song.”
This contemporary play, which opened last weekend, was written by Sarah Ruhl and directed by guest director Margarett Perry.
The central character in the three-member cast is Mary (Suzannah Gratz) who is stuck between two contrasting lives. One is with Crick (Londale Theus Jr.), her elementary school sweetheart-turned-husband who she has lived with comfortably for many years. And the other is with Red (Valerie Bentson), who is an old friend and cowgirl that she recently comes into contact with and who also gives her a new perspective on life.
Gratz portrays the conflicted Mary very well throughout the show. Her inner conflict and struggles with her life choices really are the main focuses of the play. It is interesting to watch her gradual mental degradation with the mundane and tedious aspects of her life, like all the different holidays.
Although Mary is obviously unconditionally loved by Crick, her struggle is really put under the microscope during the quiet sentimental moments that they share. Gratz and Theus play an easily believable couple, whose easy back-and-forth banter is sentimental, funny and combative throughout the show. However, although they seem like a perfect match, their discontent and differences slowly surface.
Crick as a character is also interesting and is completely blind to his soulmate’s desires. He is oblivious to her struggles and unhappiness, which makes him come across quite needy throughout the show. His actions perpetuate the uncertainty that Mary feels. He is, however, endearing and sweet. It’s quite easy to see why Mary fell in love with him in the first place. He has an appreciation for art that reveals a sort of deeper thinking and feeling that is the complete opposite from the women.
The most interesting character to watch is Red, the cowgirl. Throughout the show, she pops in with country music interludes that comment on the action that is taking place. Along with her gorgeous singing and guitar skills, Bentson totally and completely embodies the ideals of Red.
Throughout the show, Red is described by Mary as a person who doesn’t care what others think, and strives for her own happiness. It inspires Mary to do the same. Throughout, the scenes with the two women evaluate each of their own lives and learn about different aspects they might have previously overlooked.
This production takes place on a multicolored set that reflects the modern art that entrances Crick. The different colors of the set bring out the life of the characters. The furniture of Mary and Crick’s living space is made out of other objects like trunks and tires. It gives a sense that the couple never truly settles down and commits to each other.
There are some almost childlike elements to the characters and to this set, which focuses on this point even more so. It provides for a playground-like structure for the characters to sing, dance, fight and play in.
Overall, the struggle and journey that Mary takes throughout the show is one that is entirely relatable. The reoccurring conflict with the great unknown verses staying in a safe zone is a struggle that young people will especially be able to identify with.
“Late: A Cowboy’s Song” will run until May 12 with performances at 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; and 2 p.m. Saturday matinees. This production is in the Players Theatre on the Cal State Long Beach South Campus. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for seniors and students (with valid ID). For tickets and information, visit csulb.edu/depts/theatre.