Wanted, Dead or Alive

When you think "Wyatt Earp," what comesto mind? Depending on your age, it's either the historic gunfight at the O.K. Corral, a musical parody by Spike Jones, Kevin Costner's lousy movie, or . . . a big fat zero.

Did the women-folk the Earp brothers were involved with cross your mind at any time? Nope-didn't think so. But it was Michele Brourman, Sheilah Rae and Thomas Edward West's bright idea to write a musical about the Earp women. I can see them now, tossing around ideas: "Let's focus solely on their stories! And it will be an all-female cast, not a man in sight!" Apparently, none of the three realized that the Earp ladies made such insignificant historical marks-all they did was sleep with famous men-and that there might not be any story.

The sad truth about I Married Wyatt Earp is that the only frisson is in the gunfight and the vendetta among the McLaurys, Earps and Clantons . . . something that's never actually shown. Focusing on the Earp-family dysfunctions-adultery and drug abuse-results in something akin to an episode of Jerry Springer instead of, say, an examination of how violence blossoms out and infects the lives of its victims' families.

Alas, even that would have been just a standard women-as-victim message. Does the world really need another Lifetime drama, even if it has music in it? The exceptionally dull songs, info-dumping lyrics and bland book involve a lot of narration and back story, but not enough to fill in any historical blanks an individual viewer may have, and not much of anything else. Brourman, Rae and West may have written this dog, but that mongrel can stay chained up in the yard. Nobody is obligated to play with it.

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So one wonders why director/choreographers Eve Himmelheber and William F. Letts chose to try to potty train this puppy. They capably move their actors around, but because there is no real action to speak of, the staging quickly becomes repetitive and un-involving.

Amid the large cast, the three standout roles are well-sung but uneven as hell: Earp's laudanum-soaked wife, Mattie, is played by Julianne James as a floor-stomping, bellowing, staggering drunk; Carly Menkin is over-the-top hilarious as Doc Holliday's woman Kate Haroney, but her accent makes her sound like Frau Blucher. Then there's poor Mia Ernst (as Earp's mistress, Josie), radiating defiance as she belts out the rousing "Stand Our Ground," as if bed-hopping and shitty choices in men are signs of strength. Try and make that believable.

I MARRIED WYATT EARP at the CAL STATE FULLERTON PERFORMING ARTS CENTER's YOUNG THEATRE, 800 N. State College Blvd., FULLERTON, (714) 278-3371; www.fullerton.edu/arts/events. THURS.-Fri., 8 P.M.; SAT, 2 & 8 p.m.; SUN., 2 P.M. THROUGH DEC. 9. $16-$18.

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