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Collision course

The third annual Native American New Play Festival showcases a poetic drama in Salvage.

Larry Laneer June 6th, 2012

Oklahoma City Theatre Company
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N. Walker

Sometimes all people can do is salvage whatever is left of their lives after a tragedy. That’s the subject of Diane Glancy’s new play, Salvage, now being presented under the direction of Sarah d’Angelo.

As it opens, Wolf (Jeremy Tanequodle) comes home to report he’s been in a head-on collision in which a passenger in the other car was killed. One complication is that the victim was from a prominent family on the Blackfeet reservation.

Things go downhill from there. Wolf’s Native American family operates a salvage yard in Cut Bank, Mont., a small town off the reservation. His wife, Memela (Tiffany Tuggle), is a schoolteacher. His father, Wolfert (Michael Edmonds), spends much of his time communing with his dead spouse.

Memela is a devout Christian, while Wolfert resents this religion he considers foreign. The conflict between Christianity and native religion is an interesting theme that Glancy touches on and could develop further.

She waxes rather poetic with some of the dialogue. “Your heart monitor looks like waves coming to the shore,” Memela tells the hospitalized Wolfert. Using a euphemism for “dead,” she says, “If I was gone, I’d take the first falling star back.”

By writing such dialogue in a work that is solidly realistic, Glancy makes actors speak in a way their characters wouldn’t talk. What she intends by that isn’t clear.

On the other hand, some of the dialogue rings deliciously true. Two dogs, unseen, are named Muffler and Tailpipe. Plus, all three actors are Native American, lending an extraordinary authenticity.

James P. Wilson’s schematic set design suggests Wolf’s and Memela’s modest home right down to the linoleum floor. Slides are projected on a screen to depict various settings, but work more against than with each other. Like many contemporary playwrights in the age of movies and television, Glancy has written a play that comprises many brief scenes.

Salvage is the featured show in OKC Theatre Company’s commendable Native American New Play Festival. City theatergoers are starved for new works, so the company is highly commended for its efforts.

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