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Star Bar History: The Holdup, 2002 













What's the Holdup?
The Star Bar Players wrap up their 2001-2002 season
The Colorado Springs Independent, May 23, 2002

"All through my writing death has served as the place where no one can get you, nobody can call," says Pulitzer Prizewinning playwright Marsha Norman in the summer 2000 issue of the art zine, Bomb. "Somehow an early death is appealing in a silly, fantasy life."

In The Holdup, the Star Bar Players' season finale, Norman grapples with the immensity of an early death -- and its consequences. But it's pulled off with a light-hearted wit (even in the funeral scene) that obscures the play's heavy-hitting message.

Set over the course of one cold fall night in 1914, the play features four characters who intersect in a deserted wheat field of northern New Mexico. Two brothers -- long at odds with each other -- and two former lovers -- long lost to each other -- congregate by the cookshack of a wheat-threshing crew, who's due back at dawn.

It's only meant to be a temporary crossing of paths, serendipitous and fleeting. After all, one of the lovers -- the Outlaw, played with an appealing naturalness by Jon Smith -- appears and demands dinner with a pointed gun. He's awaiting the arrival of his lady love of 20 years back, Lily, performed with melodramatic flair by Sue Bachman.

But the turn of events cracks open the tension between the two brothers. Henry, the brooding older sibling who's never amounted to much, finds in the Outlaw the excitement absent from his own life, while Archie, a pipsqueak, Bible-thumping Mama's boy, yaps his way into a suddenly more sober future. Mark Sullivan is engaging as the dislikable Henry, and Keith Bunish pulls off immature Archie rather well, nuance not being the strong suit of single-minded kids.

"We all have the turning point in which our character and its future are decided upon in an instant. As quick and sudden as a gunshot," writes Tony Babin in the director's note. But while changes in the course of one's life can appear to be instantaneous, The Holdup's strength is in its clear-eyed exploration of the history and the patterns that lead you to that one instant.

-- Tess Powers