Riding Shotgun, The Play…a testosteroad trip!

Thom Mariner

Thom Mariner
Co-publisher, Express Cincinnati & EXP/arts

Saturday, August 7, 2010

‘Twas an interesting and entertaining evening on Friday, and all of it south of the Ohio…

We started off with drinks and dinner at Vito’s Cafe in Ft. Thomas, owned by my friend of 35 years, Vic Ciepiel, and his wife, Mary. Enjoying bumping into Trudie Seybold – former owner of the gone-but-not-forgotten Forest View Gardens. The servers are singers at Vito’s – mostly CCM students – the same as at Forest View. Our server, Alison, blew us away with her two selections: O mio babbino caro, from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and I Could Have Danced All Night, from My Fair Lady. Her voice was like polished silver and seamless from top to bottom. It’s the kind of voice that serves both styles well, and she was SOOOO musical – a real treat. The food was excellent, as always.

Then on to the main course for the evening: the world premiere of Riding Shotgun: written, directed and produced by local advertising exec, Greg Newberry. You’ve all seen ads and billboards for Newport Aquarium, right? These are the product of Greg’s company, Animal Instinct Advertising.

The story is about four guys who are driving cross country to San Francisco in fulfillment of a high school pact to make this trek on the eve of the millennium. It is a tale about the choices we make, how they shape our lives, and the extent to which we do or – more often – don’t realize our dreams.

The action is centered around an actual 1974 Buick LeSabre convertible onstage, which is rotated from scene to scene to provide varying perspectives. The writing is fast-paced, raw and very real. Highly effective, but not for the faint of eardrum. Think of FX’s Rescue Me on steroids. There are plenty of laughs and quite a few surprises along the way. Let’s just say things don’t always progress the way you might expect…and that’s what makes this work.

The performances are mostly very good, and will likely get better as opening-night jitters subside. The writing is the star here. Given that this is Newberry’s first foray into theater, it is especially admirable. He takes the audience on a wild ride, both literal and figurative.

If you like the style of Dennis Leary or Quentin Tarantino (without the blood), or if you’re just feeling nostalgic for your high school days, you should enjoy this show a lot. While it’s definitely a guys show, there were plenty of laughs from the women in the audience, as well, although often at different times! Here is a man (Newberry) who has put all of this on his back – no investors or benefactors, just someone with a belief in his own creative vision. Check it out, and support the creation of new theater in the Cincinnati region.

Riding Shotgun continues tonight, and also August 13 and 14, at 8:00 p.m. in NKU’s Corbett Theater. Reserve seats online at www.ridingshotguntheplay.com or purchase tickets at the door if you decide to go at the last minute.

The evening continued with an after-party at York Street Cafe, where cast and crew mingled with audience members and enjoyed drinks and late-nite bites in the always fun and funky atmosphere created by Terry Cunningham and staff.

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