Review: Shane

Shane celebrates its world premier at the Guthrie in connection with the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. A classic story written by Jack Schaefer in 1949 tells a story of a lone cowboy, Shane, as he wanders onto a settlement of a family in the middle of establishing their homestead.  This family, the Starrett’s, are seeking a better life for themselves and their son, Bobby while having to ward off Luke Fletcher, the aggressive rancher who continually tries to intimate and bully the family into giving up their land and hard work.

This adaptation takes all of the magic of a traditional Cowboy Western, with the twangy music, clinking spurs across the stage and saloon brawls and works in the beauty of introducing cast members beyond the traditional expectations of the book and movie production of Shane. Playwright, Karen Cascaras, took the story she loved, from her childhood, and cast characters as she imagined them, giving voice to many cultures:  Mexican family settling on a ranch, Shane as a Black cowboy and Native American’s sharing that the land is only available to be settled as the US Government had forcibly displaced the original settlers.

The skill of every actor in the play allowed this story to be told. The movement during several scenes is something only one can experience in the theater to truly appreciate.  The strength and speed yet purposeful slowness is spectacular to watch.  The sprinkling of language beyond English thru the play is welcoming to hear and while not everyone may understand what is being said, the meaning is easily conveyed.

Older/Younger Bobby is played by Juan Arturo and Juan does a wonderful job switching from a youthful child, showing his joy in experiencing life with to Shane; to a grown man, sharing his fondness for what Shane did for his family. William DeMeritt honors Shane with an outstanding performance as a strong, mysterious and loyal cowboy. Richardo Chaviara (Joe Starrett) and Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey (Marian Starrett) compliment each other as the parents of Bobby and partners with each other as they tackle the unknown challenges of being homesteaders.  Additionally, the rest of the cast was thoughtfully selected and shone in their roles.

My hope for this play is that it will have the opportunity to continue its mission of sharing a classic story with an updated approach in casting beyond the Twin Cities.

Shane is at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis through August 27, 2023.

Review by Rachel Gorman ; photo by Dan Norman