Through October 6|
THE AUTHENTIC LIFE OF BILLY THE KID Road Less Traveled Productions/RLTP Theatre
By Augustine Warner
Okay, everyone knows, the Old West was a violent and gun-ridden place. Right?
There were some truly psychotic people, many immortalized by dime novels, movies and TV shows.
Some of the worst are little known today, names like Bill Longley or Curly Bill Brocius.
One name which has come down to us and almost everyone knows is Billy the Kid, shot down in his prime by Sheriff Pat Garrett.
But, what if it wasnít The Kid?
Thatís the premise of Lee Blessingís ďThe Authentic Life of Billy the Kid.Ē
Garrett killed The Kid in 1881, at least thatís what a coronerís jury ruled, after examining the body of the man the sheriff killed.
Blessing sets the play in 1908, when Garrett (Daniel Greer) is a struggling rancher near Las Cruces, New Mexico and his future is looking bleak.
Then, writer Ashmon Upson (a wonderful Peter Palmisano) arrives at the isolated ranch house with a driver.
Upson wrote about the Old West, of blazing six-guns and random violence and shootouts at high noon and wrote Garrettís autobiography.
Now, the man heís with claims to be The Kid (Dave Mitchell).
Upsonís plan is a tour, with the show each night concluding with Garrett killing Billy, something like Buffalo Bill Codyís famous touring shows which even had Sitting Bull in the cast.
Upson wants to make everyone, including himself, rich.
Garrett is torn because his whole identity is the man who killed Billy and if this is Billy in the cabin, who is he?
They drink and argue, not good in a volatile situation.
Eventually, they are joined by Jim P. Miller (Patrick Cameron), a rich aficionado of Old West violence who wants to buy Garrettís ranch.
Somehow, he turns into a catalyst for the edgy situation and fatal violence kicks in
Is the situation plausible?
There were people who claimed to be Billy, after Garrett killed someone and the West was filled with people who reinvented themselves before all of the precautions of todayís security state.
One difficulty is the legend Billy created for himself, as this mad man killer, 21 victims when he turned 21, and the accuracy of that isnít clear.
Besides, there is that picture which is thought to be The Kid, maybe.
Pretty much, itís not clear what he looked like, although Garrett did know him.
Itís an interesting premise and Dyan Burlingame kicks in a nice set, although it looks a little taller and a little fancier than a ranch house in the back of beyond.
Diector Scott Behrend is working with two strong performances, Palmisano and Cameron.
Greer and Mitchell as the two aging relics of the Old West and the Lincoln County War, not so much.
They are drunks, fixated on the past and their legends in a changing West.
Neither is quite right for the parts, although they arenít bad.
ďThe Authentic Life of Billy the KidĒ is a fascinating look at the mentality which gave rise to the Hollywood western.
After all, Wyatt Earp wound up as a fixture on the Hollywood scene in the early days, an expert and consultant on the Old West.
He wasnít alone.
Instead, we have an early morning confrontation between a legendary sheriff and the legend he became legendary for killing.
Itís worth seeing because of what it says about history, entertainment and personal violence.
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