Review: The Black Rider at Green Valley Theatre Company

“We’re here to entertain you—weirdly!”

“We’re here to entertain you—weirdly!”

Photo courtesy of Green Valley Theatre Company

Showtimes: Fri 8pm, Sat 8pm, Sun 7pm. Through 8/25; $18; Westminster Presbyterian Church Hall, 1300 N Street;
Rated 5.0

Beat poet William S. Burroughs, eccentric singer/songwriter Tom Waits and creative theater director Robert Wilson walk into a bar (or writer’s room) … and emerge with a creative, peculiar, morose and wickedly bizarre avant-garde musical: The Black Rider.

Or as Green Valley Theatre Company director Christopher Cook warns the audience before unveiling his production of this musical adaptation of the German folktale Der Freischütz, “It’s weird as hell.”

Yes, it is—but The Black Rider is also intriguing, clever and theatrically mesmerizing, thanks to the talented cast, a five-member live orchestra and the beautiful costumes, sets and props designed by Cook.

Be forewarned, though: The storyline about a pact-with-the-devil is dark, stark and a bit convoluted, with lyrics at times hard to decipher. But if you put all that aside, the end result is a memorable theatrical experience.

The plot is classic folktale—rival lovers want the approval of dad for his daughter’s hand in marriage. On one side is a talented hunter with impressive marksmanship—on the other side is the clumsy clerk with a heart of gold. Enter the devil with a deal that everyone knows is not going to end well for anyone.

This production comes across as an intriguing blend of operetta, cabaret, camp, carny and pantomime—with winning performances by Victoria Timoteo as Pegleg the Devil, Kevin Borcz as the experienced hunter Robert, Kyle Welling as a-dork-able Wilhelm, Ashley Jeffers as the love interest, Scott Mino as her father Bertram, Stephanie Hodson as his wife and Sierra Nevin and Levi Fuentes in a variety of roles.

Adding to the quirky charm is that this production is being staged in Westminster Presbyterian Church’s 1920s auditorium while Green Valley works on their new permanent theater space in West Sacramento. This means an old-fashioned proscenium-style stage framed with red-velvet curtains that elevate both the set’s and this production’s eccentricity.