“Tooth of Crime” a Musical Riff on Fleeting Power and Fame

BOZEMAN, Mont., October 24, 2018—Sam Shepard, the great playwright who passed away in 2017, built a career as the voice of the lonely American West. But the haunted landscape in Tooth of Crime, the next play presented this season by Bozeman Actors Theatre, opening November 23, is like no other he ever created.

This America has gone off the rails long ago. What’s left is a poetic cross of the traditional Western film, complete with its high-noon gunfighter showdown, and a nihilistic Sex Pistols concert. Music and violent verse fly like bullets, and no one is left unscathed.

“This really is a unique play in American drama,” said Gordon Carpenter, artistic director for Bozeman Actors Theatre and director of the play. “The language and imagery are so different that it’s like Shakespeare for audiences—a little challenging at first, but slowly the meaning washes over you and you’re hit with the full power of the story.”

That story, told over several musical numbers and intense bursts of dialogue, is a thrilling rock-and-roll epic of power and fame, Carpenter said. In a celebrity-obsessed America, an aging rock idol named Hoss, played by Mark Kuntz, and his ragtag entourage struggle desperately to stay on top with challengers at every turn. When an upstart rival known as Crow, played by Tonya Andrews, comes on the scene breaking all the rules, only one can emerge the victor in a duel to the death—a duel where words and music have become the weapons of choice.

“Shepard is really unsparing in his view here that pursuit of fame will haunt you and ultimately destroy you,” said Carpenter, who also directed Shepard’s Fool for Love for BAT last season.

Shepard wrote the play in 1972 but revised it for a complete reboot that premiered in Greenwich Village in 1996. That version, featuring a score by T Bone Burnett, will be performed live in the BAT production by The Keepers, a rock band under the musical direction of Lee Dickerson. The cast of BAT veterans includes Kuntz (The Realistic Joneses), Andrews (Copenhagen), Will Dickerson (Fool for Love), Sydney Madill (Life of Galileo), and Torie Laher (Fool for Love).

Tooth of Crime is the second play in Bozeman Actors Theatre’s 2018-19 season, its 10th, dedicated to its late co-founder Dee Dee Van Zyl, who passed away earlier this year. Shows in the Eagles Club and Ballroom, 316 E. Main St., will run November 23, 24, 30 and December 1, 7, 8 beginning promptly at 7:30 p.m. All ages are welcome, but parental guidance is suggested (profanity, drug use, and stage violence). Tickets are $20 for general admission or $10 for students (with ID) and are available in advance at www.bozemanactorstheatre.org/tickets or at the door.

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