Princes of Waco

Coming of age in rough-and-tumble Texas.

  • BOOZE CLUES Sowers, right, teaches Enderle and Tusing about hooch.

BOOZE CLUES Sowers, right, teaches Enderle and Tusing about hooch.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

What’s a lost teenage boy to do when the death of his preacher father leaves him adrift in Texas? If he’s the woebegone Jim (Evan Enderle) in Robert Askins’s Princes of Waco, the list includes sounding off at Dad’s funeral service, kissing beautiful parochial schoolgirl Esme (Megan Tusing) and driving getaway while new father figure Fritz (Scott Sowers) holds up convenience stores. It’s an ambitious agenda for a young man, and although neither Jim nor his creator masters his assignment (Jim goes to jail while Fritz steals his girl), Askins’s potential is apparent.

A member of EST’s Youngblood program for emerging playwrights, Askins introduces an inspired story of innocence corrupted and wickedness redeemed, but it’s not the best fit for his sensitive characters. Even Fritz’s menace doesn’t quite mesh with his moments of comic relief. It’s as if a couple of Horton Foote characters took a wrong turn and got lost in a thriller by Sam Shepard or Tracy Letts. And the author’s many short scenes end up defusing the tension just as it’s building toward something.

Dylan McCullough’s sharp direction produces quality performances from his cast (which also includes Christine Farrell as a jaded barkeep). Enderle and Tusing are especially skilled at showing the hardening of their characters in the four years between the first and second acts. As for Askins, one hopes that in time his work will grow but not harden—though a little roughing up might not be a bad thing.—Diane Snyder

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Ensemble Studio Theatre. By Robert Askins. Dir. Dylan McCullough. With ensemble cast. 1hr 55mins. One intermission.