Fine arts department production opens Thursday in McCreless.
By Pam Paz
Imagine being held hostage in a diner by a drug-smuggling Vietnam veteran and his hippie girlfriend. It sounds like a scene from the film “Pulp Fiction.”
These are the circumstances in the department of fine art’s dramatization of “When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder?” written by Mark Medoff in 1974.
The play premieres 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the theater in McCreless Hall. Additional showings are 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14-15 and 20-22 and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 16 and 22 .
During rehearsal Tuesday, director Ronnie Watson, drama instructor, challenged the cast when he said, “Let’s see if we can make Act 2 better than Act 1 was yesterday.”
“Red Ryder” takes place post Vietnam in a small-town New Mexico diner where employees Stephen, “Red” and Angel tend to their daily tasks and patrons. Trouble brews when Vietnam vet Teddy and his girlfriend, Cheryl, stir things up.
The film version of this play is hailed as a notable work concerning the Vietnam War, according to “The Vietnam Experience: A Concise Encyclopedia of American Literature, Songs and Films” by Kevin and Laurie Collier Hillstrom.
The play was written to illustrate the damage done to the soldiers of the Vietnam War and is a testament to veterans who were not prepared for the horrible events, Watson said.
Watson also noted that today’s veterans are celebrated and applauded as opposed to the veterans of the Vietnam War, who were treated unjustly and not as war heroes.
The cast consists of eight characters. The two main characters are Stephen “Red” Ryder, played by drama freshman Esau Perez, and Teddy, played by drama freshman Eric Alvarado.
The students have been rehearsing since the end of November, and their chemistry is unmistakable.
Teddy, the antagonist, holds everyone in the diner hostage. He is able to identify his victims’ insecurities and pushes them to their breaking points. The second act portrays Teddy’s violence against the other characters.
Drama sophomore Nancy Yanez, who plays Angel the waitress, said her character is naïve and childlike and has never had to deal with anyone like Teddy. “He makes her very uncomfortable,” Yanez said. “She changes; she becomes a grown-up because of Teddy.”
Clarisse, played by drama sophomore Briana Palazzo, is an upper-class out-of-towner who stops at the diner with her husband. Palazzo said she wasn’t sure if she wanted to play Clarisse because the character seemed “a little callous” but was surprised at how much her character opens up during the second act.
Drama sophomore Nathan Mesa, who portrays Lyle, the gas station owner, said Teddy forces all the characters to face their fears as he torments them. “He damages them; he makes their insecurities worse than they were before,” Mesa said.
Drama sophomore Brian Hill portrays diner manager Tommy Clark.
Arika Escamilla, stage manager and drama sophomore, said she enjoys the technical side of theater. A stage manager’s job is to be the actor wrangler — the one who gets the cast together and keeps everyone informed of anything that deals with the play, Escamilla said.
At the end of rehearsal, Watson praised the cast. “When I ask y’all to do better than yesterday, you sure come through,” he told them.
This play contains strong language and adult situations and is not suitable for children. Tickets are $2 with an Alamo College ID; $8 for other students; $10 general admission.
For information, call 210-486-0454.