Six Rounds of Vengeance: Theater review by Helen Shaw
The lights go down. A B-movie “trailer” about a cell-phone–stomping antihero plays. It’s called—cue guitar wail—“Shut That Shit Off!” The crowd yells; we check our silent settings, and with that, the Vampire Cowboys are back.
Qui Nguyen and Robert Ross Parker have played this game for a long time, making Tarantino-esque stage comedies by collaging faux-blaxploitation reels, martial-arts flicks and zombie chillers. This time Nguyen combines ingredients to get a postapocalyptic “Lost Vegas” crawling with “long-tooths” and bounty hunters. Is it good? Not the point. The point is you’re pumped.
For some of us, though, repetition has dulled the sword. Perhaps even Nguyen is tired: He bangs together events and we barely care that gunslinger Mal (Sheldon Best, oozing star quality) teams up with saucy badass Jess (Jamie Dunn) to fight neckbiters. Yet amid the de rigueur silliness, Mal and his lover Nathan (Jon Hoche) share a surprisingly tender, charmingly written scene. The production suddenly ratchets up in caliber, and we remember that Nguyen doesn’t need to physically reach inside our chests to twang a heartstring.—Helen Shaw
New Ohio Theatre (Off-Off Broadway). By Qui Nguyen. Directed by Robert Ross Parker. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.