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Posted at 2:48 PM ET, 07/17/2009

At the Fringe: Billy the Kid, Then and Now

By Nelson Pressley
Fringe Festival

If you have a bit of surly gunslinger in you, it might be drawn out by "Billy the Kid: First Exhumation.

Directed by Jackson Phippin, this moody experimental piece is based on the legend of Billy the Kid. Using some clever Old West cutouts on the stage and echo-y guitar work and electronic noise from Steven Leffue, the cast roughs in the outlaw's history and acts out a few of the highlights.

But the loose exploration of Billy also includes what seems like personal confessions by the actors, who then play themselves as they describe instances of petty crime and hair-trigger fights. They tell these vivid tales directly to the audience, using their own names (Tim Pabon, Bolton Marsh, John Benoit), and Benoit's story leaves you wondering if he really did have an unexpected hand in the death of an old man.

Why do they share these anecdotes? Actors being actors -- and this being a certain brand of collaborative theater that's not really interested in text -- eventually they look within themselves for personal connections to the story, and their own inner Billys come tumbling out. Pabon and Benoit are particularly compelling, and Leffue's live accompaniment is an invaluable partner in this intriguing excursion.

The members of Redd Shifft are well-versed in the techniques they are using, and moment by moment, the show holds the stage. You can tell you're in the hands of pros, which, of course, isn't always the case at Fringe.

-- Nelson Pressley

By Nelson Pressley  | July 17, 2009; 2:48 PM ET
Categories:  Theater  
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