March 09, 2014

Reviews of Stand-Off at HWY #37

“Stand-Off at HWY #37” Examines Military Stand-Up then Stand Down in, as yet, Unexamined Places

By Jennifer K. HugusThat this stand-off takes place in such a lovely venue makes it all the more eerie and harrowing. The governments involved: The U.S. and Indian i.e. Native American involving the Iroquois, Cayuga and Mohawk. Set in upstate New York on the border of a small town and its local Haudenosaunee reservation, the dispute involves the expansion of Highway #37 and the, as yet, unsullied land surrounding it.And:Up until now, the crux of the tension has been centered around Doxdater’s mission vs. Indian preservation as Doxdater, and Baldwin alike, will argue that the freeway extension is an indication of “progress; that the U.S. government is simply tending to the surrounding land. After all, it’s “just sitting there, getting overgrown” and no one’s really using it. Aunt Bev will argue the same thing; but that the Native People are tending to the land just fine adding that the fact that it’s getting overgrown and remains unpopulated is “progress.” If ever there was an argument so timeless, yet historically exact, this is it in all its authenticity and I can’t help but feeling, as I watch it, that no time has passed at all since the white man’s initial arrival on Native soil as a bit of a chill shoots straight up my spine…Divided Loyalties, Mixed Motives Mingle in Indigenous Drama

By Ed RampellThere’s no doubt that the aboriginal bard is exploring and presenting a “ripped-from-the-headlines” type indigenous clash, as Natives must, once again, fight for their land to fend off what is referred to as “an occupying force.” But Ramirez also has something else up her tricky dramatist’s sleeve: Every one of her characters is beset by divided loyalties and mixed motives, which is the real leitmotif of her all-too-human drama.And:Aunt Bev’s exposition as the curtain lifts and before it drops violates rule #1 of dramatics: “Don’t tell me, show me!” But these, dear reader, are mere quibbles, and should not dissuade you from enjoying this thought provoking work, with its ensemble cast so ably directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera, a simple yet effective set (including, overhead, a Congressional resolution) by scenic designer Jeff McLaughlin, plus some projections designed by Adam Flemming. Los Angeles has North America’s largest urban Indian population—but to paraphrase those old wry rye bread ads, you don’t have to be Native to love this play, which is for any theatergoer who thrives on great drama, fab acting, quirky characters and a theatre of conscience and consciousness. Auds should not be stand-offish about seeing Ramirez’s sizzling Stand-Off at HWY #37.BWW Interviews: Playwright Vickie Ramirez Discusses STAND-OFF AT HWY #37

By Ellen DostalDo you hope that Stand-Off will change the way people see events like these?

V: I hope it makes them a little more aware of what's currently going on. These issues are ongoing. They're not anachronistic. Everybody seems to think that we're all good now and that everything's fine; since the boarding schools aren't happening anymore. We're good but the situation is not. It's awkward because, the truth is, I don't think anyone specifically is a black cowboy hat-wearing bad guy; it's just priorities are different and entitlements come from very different places, and there is invariably going to be a clash.

I read that you started a Native theatre company in the early 90s. Is that something you did to create more opportunities for Native Americans?

V: There was a group of us. It was Cochise Anderson, Irene Bedard, James Fall, Betsy Theobald, and a few others. We were tired of the anachronistic voice and the victimized Indian--the whole archetype of how people see us, because when they see us in that sort of persona, they don't actually see us as regular people. So we wanted to bring forward the contemporary Native voice to examine who we are now because we have been colonized; we have been changed dramatically. How do we cope? Who are we now? We do have major identity issues in the nations about where we fit in the world at large so we did work based on expressing those ideas.
Stand-Off at HWY #37 by Vickie Ramirez: Press Photos

Rob's review

I attended a performance of Stand-Off at HWY #37 this afternoon. Later, I briefly discussed writing plays with Facebook friend Brad:

Alas, I didn't think the play was that good. The majority of it was people saying or shouting talking points at each other.

If you embedded that much conflict in, say, a novel, it might work. But as a 75-minute drama of nonstop harangues, no.Yeah theater isn't my thing either. It all pretty much feels like 75 minutes of people shouting at each other to me.I'm surprised that so many plays come out that way. You have the same amount of time as a TV show of 1-2 hours. But TV writers understand that you should build up to a few emotional moments--usually at the commercial breaks and at the end. Playwrights think nonstop conflict is the way to go. Wrong.I'm not even sure it's the writing. I'm just annoyed by the ridiculous overacting.

It's like stage actors don't know how to have a normal conversation or do dialog without waving their arms around and shouting everything.
I'd blame this one on the writer and director. It's not like the actors were hamming up a few dialogue lines of conflict. They had no choice because most of the lines involved conflict. You'd have to double the play's length, at least, to add some natural "breathing space" between the lines.I can see where direction could be a problem too. Of course if it WAS written that way then nothing was going to save it.On the positive side, Stand-Off at HWY #37 presented a variety of modern-day Indians free of mistakes and stereotypes. It addressed a wealth of issues that never reach the mainstream media--that most Americans don't know about.

It would take a few rewrites before I could recommend it. But the raw material of a good play is there.

Below:  Eagle Young as Private Thomas Lee Doxdater and Kalani Queypo as Darrin.

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