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Even Cowgirls Get the Blues opens at Book-It Repertory
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues opens at Book-It Repertory
by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
Directed by Russ Banham
Book-It
Repertory Theatre
Through October 12


Tom Robbins wrote his second best-selling novel, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, in 1976. It's a raucous tale about Sissy Hankshaw, the "Queen of the Road," due to her ability to hitchhike with outsized thumbs. The novel also contains a side story about a dude ranch worked only by cowgirls, who spend their nights having fun with each other, finally developing the courage to declare themselves Lesbians. The novel is a heady statement of feminine freedom, expressing the right to have little girls' dreams come true, just like little boys' dreams can.

Book-It Repertory has "gone back to the book" to adapt this novel in their particular style. Jennifer Sue Johnson, adaptor and experienced Book-It player, keeps the style and the message clear and fresh, with the support of an extraordinary music director, Jo Miller, and the tight direction of Russ Banham. Scenic design by Jennifer Zeyl, rustic barn settings and a truck stop atmosphere, and costumes by K.D. Schill, representing '70s chic from hippie to savvy, give it the Robbins' flavor - a bit cartoonish, a bit whimsical, a bit over the top.

Rather than mix dates and times, as Robbins can do freely in a novel, Johnson's script hews to a more linear description of how Sissy moves from awkward young girl with a deformity into glorying in her special ability to attract attention, even going so far as to become a model. Kate Czajkowski, as Sissy, is on stage almost every minute of the play, and brings an amazing open-faced smile and unaware manner to Sissy's revelatory understanding of her abilities. These include a kind of innocent sexuality, ready to explore any kind of relationship, including same-sex or older-age.

Sissy is sent on modeling assignments by the Countess (Brian Thompson, a super '70s Gay cliché in pink pantsuit), to promote his line of feminine hygiene products. The Countess owns a ranch spa, which has been taken over by cowgirls, headed by Bonanza Jellybean (Hilary Pickles), to which he sends Sissy thinking she would get these women to toe his line. Pickles, as a rootin' tootin' cowgirl, shows Sissy a thing or two about feminine hygiene that Sissy never thought of ("take some feminine moisture and dab it behind your ears"), while encouraging Sissy to revel in the reality of what women smell and taste like without poisoning themselves with foreign chemicals. Pickles plays Jellybean as an embodiment of Robbins philosophy, which, while supporting women's rights also seems to keep them naïve about the consequences. Jellybean becomes a tragic figure due to her misunderstanding of the outside world.

Several standout cowgirls include Marissa Price as a sinister and sinuous Delores Del Ruby, Julie Jamieson as a precursored dyke-cliché cowgirl, and Samara Lerman as a yoga-teaching, 'fro-wearing hippie cowgirl. Up on the mountain, Wesley Rice ha-has, ho-hos and hee-hees as the Chink, who spouts the philosophy, "Be your own Jesus," and has joyful sex with as many cowgirls as he can.

Cowgirls has a flavor of its time and place that really can't be replicated in our times. So, some of its revelations are dated. Somehow, a flock of whooping cranes becomes a symbol of freedom, and the cowgirls are removed from regular life, and so can't integrate themselves into a real world of female powerfulness. But the embracing of women's nude bodies (gracefully lit by Andrew D. Smith) and the idea that women are naturally beautiful is still a powerful and positive statement today.

The production maintains the amusement and tongue-in-cheek awareness of the novel. Go and enjoy yourself, try not to stare at the beautiful bottom halves, and get carried away to another time and place. For more information, go to www.book-it.org or call 206-216-0833.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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