Sunday, November 3, 2019

Review of WildClaw Theatre's Hell Followed With Her

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Hell Followed With Her. It was written by Bill Daniel and directed by Josh Zagoren. It was about a woman named Willow (Sophia Rosado) who comes to the town of Dodge, Texas looking for a criminal on the run, Glanton (George Zarante). The people in the saloon she has walked into notice that she is a bit unusual, but they all have secrets of their own. As a zombie plague infects the town, the saloon-goers slowly notice the strange happenings and become more involved with them than they ever wanted. The show is about strangers, revenge, and having to make difficult choices. I think this is an intriguing concept with some unforgettable characters.

The atmosphere at Wild Claw shows is always very immersive. From the second you walk into the space you really feel the dread and terror that is to come. By the time you walk through the hallway into the onstage saloon, many of the actors already were on stage drinking and talking. The set (co-designed by Rachel Watson and Greg Williamson) had a natural chaos about it. The tables didn't seem to be in their original places but everyone seemed used to it. Maybe there had been a bar fight three years ago and all the tables got pushed to the side and no one ever put them back because they didn't care about it. The lighting (Conchita Avitia) was very dark and natural to the location. The costumes (Satoe Schechner) seemed very lived-in which was perfect for the outlaw vibe of every character. Even if they weren't all technically outlaws, they sure dressed like them.

One of my favorite characters was Shelby (Nora King), who was part of Glanton's clan. She frequently had witty interjections that I was always looking forward to. This character was blind and was a lot smarter than people took her for. She knew a lot about being a criminal and guns and it was funny to see everyone's reaction to her extensive knowledge. Another character I really liked was Cole (Josh Razavi when I saw it, usually Ardarius Blakely). He was a very stoic man; he didn't talk or move for a good chunk of the first act. He seemed to have a soft spot for Willow and he didn't seem to want to hurt anyone, despite coming off as a tough guy. Denton (Gregory Madden) was the sheriff and genuinely seemed like a good person. He was the only person who from start to finish seemed to be doing everything for the greater good. In a show with zombies and outlaws, I think a stable presence whose motive is keeping peace is something that is welcome. I wish I had known more about these characters; I would have enjoyed more in-depth explorations of a few characters instead of having little bits about a very large cast of characters.

This show had gender-blind casting, which is something I usually like in a show because it gives opportunities to gender nonconforming folks and women in shows with largely male casts, which are a lot of shows in the history of theater. I think this play wanted to be feminist and inclusive. It features a strong female central character and a majority non-male-identifying cast. But the majority of the characters in the show were male-identifying, even when played by women and people who were gender nonconforming. They are not telling many female stories, and the one major female story that they tell ends up turning into a straight romance, when the story didn't need it. It would be an interesting town if the characters who had traditionally male pursuits in the time period (and were played by non-male actors) were women and nonconforming characters. I know sometimes scripts can't be changed, but since this was a world premiere, maybe it could have been revised to better reflect the casting or clarify why most of the characters had to be male.

People who would like this show are people who like westerns, immersive atmosphere, and zombie bar fights. I think this is a cool show. It is perfect if you are in a spooky mood.

Photos: Clark Bender/WildClaw Theatre

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