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‘The Majestic Kid’ Has a Rough Ride

From the minute he bursts through the door, the back-lit smoke obscuring his visage, Justin M. Gorence as the Laredo Kid shines more brightly than any spit-polished sheriff’s badge. Unfortunately, Mark Medoff’s “The Majestic Kid” isn’t about him.

Presented by and at Santa Clarita Repertory Theatre, in association with the Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival of the city of Santa Clarita, this play limps like a crippled horse under David Colwell’s direction, with a generally lackluster cast.

Gorence--duded up in white fleece chaps over black jeans, a black cowboy shirt with red trim and embroidered roses, and a black hat trimmed in silver--saunters about with the right touch of laconic innocence and idealistic courage. He’s a man with a five o’clock shadow who’s more likely to kiss a horse than a “gal.” And he’s damn proud of it.

Set in a small town in 1981, Medoff’s plot forms a polygon of love. Legal eagle Ava Jean (Ellen Marie Andrews) loves her lawyer partner and childhood friend, Aaron (Aaron Angello). Aaron loves Lisa (Krista Schafer). Lisa had an affair with Judge Finlay (Gregory Clemens), who still loves her. Lisa loved a man who was mysteriously murdered a few years back. The Laredo Kid, the silent star of the silver screen idolized by Aaron, loves his audience, his old scripts and his horse. No one’s sure whom the unseen horse loves.

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Aaron and Ava Jean are defending Apache land interests against the landowners, setting the townsfolk against them. Laredo appears only to Aaron, and he attempts to teach Aaron how to become the Majestic Kid.

Medoff’s script is filled with homey descriptives (“you make a saint mad enough to stomp a porcupine barefoot”), affectionate swipes and winks at the limitations of a heroic life lived only on celluloid.

Colwell needs to tighten up the action and ease the flow of the sometimes awkward transitions. But at the center, Angello’s Aaron sparks no chemical fireworks with either Andrews or Schafer. His flat persona and monotone enunciations cannot convincingly conjure the magnetic attraction his character supposedly has for the two women.

Yet Gorence charms as the often bewildered cowpoke, trying to define what script he and Aaron are in and why Aaron isn’t fighting the “redskins,” and contemplating how the government officials became the bad guys. Even when he sings in his unabashedly unmelodic voice, accompanied by cowpoke musicians Elias Scarr and Stephen Shepard, he’s more likely to make you grin than wince.

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* “The Majestic Kid,” Santa Clarita Repertory Theatre, 24266 San Fernando Road, Santa Clarita. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Ends April 22. $15. (661) 222-7278. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.


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