The Omaha Community Playhouse brought a piece of the Wild West back to town with its latest production “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” directed by Jeff Horger.
“The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” is performed by nine cast members. Its production is an official event the Nebraska 150 Celebration, which is a year-long celebration of Nebraska’s 150th year of statehood.
Narrator Chris Berger, whose main purpose throughout the show is to ensure smooth transitions between scenes, opens the show by reading Bible verses while a funeral procession files on stage. A coffin containing the body of cowboy Bert Barricune, played by Isaac Reilly, is placed on the saloon tables while a small group of mourners gather to pay their respects.
Annoyingly curious reporter Jane Dowitt, played by Aubrey Fleming, reveals that while Barricune lived the ordinary life of a cowboy, he knew extraordinary people, including Senator Ransome Foster. Foster agrees to explain how he knew Barricune, and with a little set rearranging, the cast flashes back to 1890.
Barricune is revealed to be a gruff, rough and tough Wild West cowboy. He travels where the work is and only returns to Twotrees to visit and verbally spar with his love interest, Hallie Jackson. Beneath his rough exterior, Barricune is revealed to have a heart of gold and protects those he cares about, even when it means risking his own life.
Hallie Jackson, played by Sydney Readman, is Twotrees’ saloon owner. She’s a fast-talking tomboy with a no-nonsense attitude. While her character can come off as overly abrasive at times, she is central to the main character’s development and even develops into a better, more-open minded person by the end of the show.
Ransome Foster, played by Dennis Stessman, is the show’s main character. Foster, who was found beaten outside the territory, is carried into town by Barricune. After healing, he makes a deal to stay in Twotrees for free in exchange for teaching the town members to read and write. He’s the production’s hero and though he’s not big and strong, he still fights for what he believes in.
One of the show’s biggest clichés take away from its overall message. Jim Mosten, played by Chad Cunningham, is an African American man working with Hallie in the bar. He’s an excellent supporting character, but is routinely referred to as “boy,” by the white characters. The racism detracts from Foster’s message of equality for all.
The show may not be appropriate for all age groups. Viewers interested in taking children should be warned that expletives include the f-bomb and n-word being dropped during the show.
Despite its drawbacks, the Omaha Community Playhouse’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” is worth a watch. The excitement of spit takes, live gun fire and classic underdog story line are worth taking the time to see.
Admission costs $36 for adults and $22 for students. Reduced prices are available for groups of 12 or more.