Review: Maid Marian in a Stolen Car by Zach Theatre
by David Glen Robinson
Maid Marian in a Stolen Car as a title has almost nothing to do with a character out of the tales of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. But as an overarching metaphor for the life in theatre that is Jaston Williams, it's perfect. Here's a man who has worked with the outlaws of theatre for four decades (and counting), a man who stood for right and good but saw injustice along the way. And when he saw injustice, well, he wrote it all down and turned it into hilarious stories. Now Williams retells all these stories on Zach’s Whisenhunt stage and makes them even funnier.
As with many comedians, Williams grew up as an outsider in small-town America. In his backyard where he could be himself, he would scoop up a handful of mud and hold it in his fist. The mud was the talisman and key to the world of magic known so well by creative children. To it, Williams would recite speeches memorized from plays and movies, and he would dance the characters he knew perfectly. When called to dinner, he dropped the handful of mud.
Williams has worked with some of the Texas greats, from the 1970s until now. He recounts experiences with C.K. McFarland and Marco Perella and makes a passing reference to the late Dennis Hopper and his early Taos phase. Williams tells of creating all the characters in Greater Tuna with Joe Sears while sitting in the branches of the spreading oaks of San Antonio’s San Pedro Park, engaged in activity he says, “is now perfectly legal in Washington State and Colorado.” This is a punchline used a few times throughout the show. For the most part, however, Williams prefers discretion by not using names or else by using sobriquets for the more colorful characters.
Despite the veils left over some of the faces, Williams conveys genuineness and authenticity in a memoir of a life well-lived, one with joys and tragedies in full measure. He is especially impassioned in blessing his universal tribe of all actors—illustrated with a number of bizarre anecdotes—and convincing us of their openness and accepting natures. He also shows us how actors have needful and rightful places in the world, with their mission to relieve us of care with laughter and story.
Along the way in this show, Williams demonstrated his mastery of what may well be a new form in rhetoric and exposition. This reviewer calls it here: the rant. Most consider the rant a casual and unfocused expression of anger, but no; and Williams has mastered the art of the rant. At four distinct points in the show, the stage manager brought out a podium and a text from which Williams orated. These speeches were labeled Rants 1-4. Williams inveighed similarly in Zach’s Vanya and Masha and Sonia and Spike a few months back and brought down the house with that performance. A rant varies from a philippic or a diatribe in that by the mid-point the audience must be doubled over with laughter. Anything less is unacceptable. Williams is a master of the form. All adults must see this memorable and truly funny and loving show.
1510 Toomey Road
Austin, TX, 78704
August 28, 2014 - September 28, 2014