Dead Outlaw at Audible’s Minetta Lane Theatre

Andrew Durand and Jeb Brown in a scene from Dead Outlaw. Photo by Matthew Murphy
Andrew Durand and Jeb Brown in a scene from Dead Outlaw. Photo by Matthew Murphy

NEW YORK – Dead Outlaw at Audible’s Minetta Lane Theatre

“Dead Outlaw”, now at Audible’s Minetta Lane Theatre is a deceptive cuss of a show.

You get that feeling right away when you walk into this tiny theatre and see an even tinier set ready to welcome a band. On stage are two guitars: one acoustic, one electric; one lute, one banjo; two electric basses; one drum set; one upright piano; one slide guitar; one electric piano, and two mic stands. Hardly seems like there would be room for actors, never mind musicians. But there is room, and even room, for one more guitar in the hands of The Bandleader (Jeb Brown), who is here to tell the tale.

What appears as a simple tale of varmints, thieves, and outlaws is anything but.

For instance, the central character is not the lead performer, the story is not what you think it will be, the conductor (Rebekah Bruce), who appears to be just an accompanist, IS the Musical Director, and there is no happy ending. There is no horrible ending either. I guess you could say there is no ending at all. Just a place where the trail runs out.

First off, you should know that this is a true tale. The story of Elmer McCurdy (Andrew Durand) as told by The Bandleader. Born in 1880 in Searsmont, Maine, Died 1911 in Oklahoma. Buried 1977.

That there ought to be enough to pique your interest. Narrated by The Bandleader with plenty of backup by the band (Dean Harenow, Rebekah Bruce, Michael Ferrara, Spencer Cohen, Erik Della Penna; Hank Heaven and Chris Smylie), the story of Elmer McCurdy roles out like a warm saddle blanket on a cold night. See, Elmer had a sense of adventure that took him away from Maine to Iola Kansas, home of an oil boom. He put down roots and fell in love with a swell gal names Maggie (Julia Knitel) whose father, Root, (Ken Marks) owned the plumbing supply store – where Elmer also found a job. Three years passed before Elmer couldn’t fight the itch provided by whiskey nor the call to move on again.

His attempts at becoming a respectable outlaw failed over and over again until his life was cut short in Oklahoma in 1911. Soundscape composition. The latter part of the story is how and why it took over 60 years to bury him. Suffice to say his was a body that more or less became a mummy that had a real hard time finding a place to rest.

Trent Saunders, Andrew Durand,and Eddie Cooper; Photo by Matthew Murphy

Trent Saunders, Andrew Durand, and Eddie Cooper; Photo by Matthew Murphy

“Dead Outlaw” is not so much a musical as it is a play with music. Most of Yazbek & Erik Della Penna’s music has a country flavor, some of it poignant as all get out, some rocking and some disturbing. All delivered with style and grace and divided up among this excellent cast so that every person in the supporting cast has at least one solo that lets them shine. David Cromer (fresh from directing “A Prayer For The French Republic” and appearing in “The Animal Kingdom) has found time to coax the delicate center of this tale out into the open. This is a brilliant collaboration on every level.

As the “Dead Outlaw” concludes, we discover that we have been led on a merry chase, thinking that the story is about someone named McCurdy. It is, in fact, the story of us – of you and me – how we are born in one place and travel miles or years to our ending. Sometimes, we feel in charge of our trajectory, and other times, we feel we are being passed from one person to another. As one of the actors (and BTB, all the actors are listed as “Actor” in the Who’s Who – another unifying touch) tells us, “…it’s only endings that give meaning to what comes before.”

McCurdy waited decades for his ending. Now that we are saying his name again, however, perhaps it was not an ending in the way everyone thought. He still died. And so will we. Who is to say our story?

My advice – take a chunk of your time here on this planet and spend 90 minutes of it at “Dead OutLaw.”

Music & lyrics by David Yazbek & Erik Della Penna, book by Itamar Moses, conceived by David Yazbek, and directed by David Cromer.

WITH Jeb Brown, Eddie Cooper, Andrew Durand, Dashiell Eaves, Julia Knitel, Ken Marks, Trent Saunders, and Thom Sesma.

The creative team includes Ani Taj (movement direction), Dean Sharenow (music supervisor), Arnulfo Maldonado (scenic design), Sarah Laux (costume design), Heather Gilbert (lighting design), Kai Harada & Joshua Millican (sound design), Isabella Curry (soundscape composition), Rebekah Bruce (music director), Erik Della Penna, Dean Sharenow, & David Yazbek (orchestrations).

Dead Outlaw opens on Sunday, March 10 at Audible’s Minetta Lane Theatre running through Sunday, April 7. It will also be recorded and released on Audible at a later date, extending its reach to millions of listeners around the world.

Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Bliss Street at City WineryThe ClubThe Ally at the Public TheaterJelly’s Last JamThe Maid and the MezmerizerSeven Year Disappear, Until Dark, and This is Not a Time of Peace.

Dead Outlaw at Audible’s Minetta Lane Theatre


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