Theater Review/Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage

By Emily Weekley


(l-r) Iain Wilcox, Cassidy Timms

Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage has opened at the Red Barn Theater and is ready to take you on a wild ride. If you are up for a ropin’-and-ridin’, guns-a-balzin’, hilarious good time, you won’t wait to high-tail it down to the box office. 

Written by Jane Martin, a playwright cloaked in mystery and believed to actually be playwright Jon Jory under a pseudonym, Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage is a Western satire with all the dramatic elements you would expect: cowboys, impending ranch foreclosure, unexpected affairs, and Chekhov’s gun in the first act. This is the latest of several of Martin’s plays that have been produced by the Red Barn over the years, and a terrifically fun choice for the audience on the part of director Joy Hawkins. 

The stage is configured as a kitchen and dining room, adorned on the brown walls with posters from the classic John Wayne-era Westerns on one side and posters from the rodeo circuit on the other. Details like crushed PBR cans, a shotgun rack, big shining belt buckles, and cowboy tchotchkes create an atmosphere that foreshadows both the characters and situation that the audience enters as the exposition begins drenched in the sounds of the thunderstorm outside.

But it’s not just the weather that has a storm brewing; the point-of-attack has the twitchy Shedevil thundering into the kitchen where former rodeo rider Big 8 and cowboy Rob Bob are discussing the challenges facing them, a foreclosure and an injury, respectively. Shedevil is not from around these parts, and it shows. As she stirs up drama in the middle of the night, it is only the beginning of the cyclone that has followed her to town, bringing with it gruesome scenes set against the folks of the rodeo circuit. 

George DiBraud delivers the perfect down-and-out cowgirl who is trying to cling to a life wherein chapters are closing with little certainty of what might be next. Both DiBraud and Iain Wilcox, who plays the young, dreamy-eyed, naïve rodeo rider Rob Bob, impressively deliver a dialogue the discourse of which is fast-paced and challenging and that draws the audience right into that rural home on the range. Cassidy Timms as Shedevil uses the entire stage to convey the nervousness, scheming, and desperation of the stranger who’s come to town. Susanna Wells plays Shirl, Big 8’s sister, and delivers comedic lines so perfectly timed that the audience finds itself delighted throughout the action, and the conveyed charm of the character distracts completely from the grisly happenings onstage. Together, these actors seem so well choreographed that the intensity of the rising action is seamless, a notable feat for a play where the action keeps the viewers perpetually on their toes.  

Supporting cast members Mathias Maloff as Black Dog, Tim Dahms as Baxter Blue, and Jack McDonald as Memphis Donnie Pride add layers and comedic value to the impediments that cut into the action bringing new layers of challenge to that kitchen in Wyoming. 

Don’t miss your chance to see Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage – you will be grateful for the good time. This play runs through February 25th at the Red Barn Theater at 319 Duval Street (in back). Get your tickets at or by calling the box office, open from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on weekdays, at 305-296-9911.

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