The Bloomington Playwrights Project opens its 2007-2008 season with a very engaging duet titled "Cowboyily" by Steven Cole Hughes. According to Hughes, "cowboyily" is an adverb meaning to do something like a cowboy. The two characters are Travis, a loquacious Denver bus driver played by veteran Joe Gaines and Will, a young Chicago playwright played by newcomer Michael Carey.
While deftly manipulating his ever-present toothpick, Travis can and will talk about almost anything and there are plenty of surprises. He may mispronounce "expresso," and as he says about the subject of UFOs, don’t get me started," but his analysis of the intersection of racism and classicism in our society has more than tyro depth. While actor Gaines does a nice job with Travis’s easy confidence, he also lets us see the vulnerability that the playwright has included. Will the playwright is drawn to Travis, at first just as a curiosity, but later with some respect and even concern. Michael Carey’s playwright is eagerly ready to learn, but also a bit proud and apprehensive.
"Cowboyily" is directed by Jennifer Loia Alexander. With just the two actors and a few simple sets, the show almost never flags its involvement. The unfolding of the characters of the two men and of their growing relationship is full of interesting scenes. Some are very funny, some even a bit frightening. Sometimes playwright Hughes stretches our credibility just a bit, but Alexander and the actors keep things working.
All in all, "Cowboyily" is a delightful play. It’s funny, dramatically engaging, and even intelligently insightful about the ways that cultural opposites can work through differences to respect.
Steven Cole Hughes’ "Cowboyily" is at the Bloomington Playwrights Project through September fifteenth with Thursday, Friday and Saturday eight o’clock shows and Sunday matinees at two.
You can find an interview with director Jennifer Alexander on our Arts Interviews page .