Things turned darker with our third production, FEEDLOT, by Patrick Meyers. The New York Times summarized: “It has its unsteady moments, but it deals forcefully with some provocative subjects: heroism, cowardice, and complicity in violence; aggressive masculinity and fear of homosexuality.” FEEDLOT is set during the night shift in the operations room of a slaughterhouse and I’ll just say that there were guns, cigarettes and cattle prods. The play centered on the violent confrontation between two cowboys played by Richard Cox and Joe Ragno, who had done the role Off Broadway at Circle Rep (now also gone). It featured Tom Bower, David Hanna and Ed Morgan.
The reviews were mostly good, but I remember it being a disturbing ride that didn’t draw. It was part of a recurring pattern at that time: shows that had been received well in NY didn’t go over in LA and vice versa. Sidebar: LA productions tended to do great in London and the reverse was also true.
The production was a turning point for me and the fledging Back Alley. Allan was much more drawn to exploring this material than I was, so we switched roles, with him directing and me producing for the first time. I found out this was what I was meant to do. Solving problems! Staying on schedule! Even more importantly, we installed air conditioning in the theatre (check out the flyer below), the first indication we might be in this for the longer haul.
Besides the emotionally charged performances and pacing, Allan’s directorial trademarks, I also remember with pride creating the successful illusion of a working elevator in a relatively small space (in the cast photo below), along with a filmed sequence set to Afternoon of a Faun by Debussy. Funny the things that stick.