| Gone to Texas |
Through April 29
$36.95 dinner & show
$20 show only
The Church Bistro & Theatre
1150 S. Alamo
Of all forms of theater, I’m least keen on musicals, as they seem to come off neutered, lacking the down-and-dirty humanness of something like, say, Dinner With Friends. But musical theater certainly has an audience — often, those out for good, clean, dispassionate fun. (Or those out to take their houseguests, children, or parents-in-law to something inoffensive). Gone to Texas conjures such elementary-school-Thanksgiving-Day-reenactment kitsch that it would seem more appropriate performed on a rickety stage in the gym or cafeteria.
Not 10 minutes into Gone to Texas, William Barret Travis, leaving his wife and child for the Lone Star State, declares Texas a Biblical promised land — a phrase indicative of just how state-triotic this play is. (At least they get the mosquitoes right.) Travis, portrayed here Napoleonesquely by Ben Gamble, is a murderer fleeing Alabama for a new life in good ole San Antone. But things aren’t so easy in the land of steers and beers, either. Santa Anna’s regime is treating Texans unfairly, so Travis coerces a few men into taking on Mexico. (It’s that simple! Can I have some more apple juice, teacher?) Among these men are James Bowie, Davy Crockett, and Gregorio Esparza.
Oh, and of course their wives and children figure in, but no amount of babies or marital reconciliations could make me care about these characters, because I just couldn’t stop asking myself why these people were wasting time singing when Santa Anna’s army was only two damn miles away.
I will say, however, that I admired Pete Sanchez’s uninhibited booty-shaking in “Take the Tex out of Texas” (even though his character, on the whole, makes no sense. One minute he’s mortally afraid of his cruel wife, the next he’s longing for her soft besos.)
On the other end of the spectrum is Leo Perez as Santa Anna, with a restrained physicality and Kermit-ish voice (which is really quite lovely), though he doesn’t seem to have much instinct for this dialogue.
Timothy Birt as James Bowie (summoning a very young Alan Rickman here) has killer pipes — it’s just a pity he has to show them off in songs like “Urselita.”
Aside from “My Forever Love,” which seemed to last forever, “Davy and Me” is the most intolerable, absolutely useless song of Gone to Texas. It’s clear the guy singing it is Davy Crockett, we all know it, so don’t bore us with this bullshit unless you’re going to disguise him. (And please, for heaven’s sake, can he stop comparing everything to a bear?)
The Church must have had some very skilled scenic painters on hand, because where Gone to Texas’s songs are unimpressive, its set is quite the opposite. And one lovely moment of blocking/lighting comes at the end, when all of the men kneel, with guns or arms rigid and pointing straight forward (making a kind of right angle with their bodies), and are lit from below with red and from the sides with blue. Nevertheless, I still found myself wondering, “May I be excused?”