Presented by Merrimack Theatre Company
By Allison Gregory
Directed by Courtney Sale
Featuring Actor Leenya Rideout
Music by Rafael Molina
Film by Kathy Wittman
Costume Design by Lee Viliesis
COVID PROTOCOLS: Vaccination or negative test result required. Masks also required for both indoor and outdoor locations. See the full details here
CONTENT WARNING: Wild Horses contains adult language and content. Recommended for ages 16 and older. Mentions of child abuse and descriptions of animal abuse.
Run Time: 90 minutes with no intermission
Review by Kitty Drexel
Streaming — Wild Horses, streaming now on MRT.org, is a prime example of great theatre that translates well to both in-person and online viewing. MRT’s recording reveals solo-performer Leenya Rideout as a skilled storyteller capable of spinning nuance with a single gesture. One can practically feel the electric energy rippling off of her captured performance.
Rideout is good in the video. She’d be better live. This is a streamed performance that’ll make you regret you didn’t see it in person.
Wild Horses takes its name from the Rolling Stones song. At the opening, we’re told that it’s an open mic night. A woman (Rideout) has escaped her duties as wife and mother to tell us a story from her teenage years that shaped the rest of her life. She recounts small-town adventures with best friends Skinny Lynny and ring leader Zabby: first love, first kiss, and first loss of innocence. Wild Horses is a one-woman show about teenage hormones, freedom, and unbridled self-discovery.
Wild Horses isn’t a musical. It’s a play with music from the 70s. Rideout frequently picks up a guitar and strums to a few phrases from classics such as “Dancing in the Moonlight,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and hits by Heart. When she gets the chance to really sing, Rideout’s powerful voice rips into the silence with Rafael Molina on guitar.
Molina is on it. The camera catches him with a huge grin, beaming at Rideout from his perch on stage right. It’s so satisfying to see musicians rock out with actors: she was having a ball; it’s good to see that he was too.
Wild Horses has descriptions of animal abuse. The teenaged narrator encounters some humans who hurt their horses because they can. This violence serves the plot. It is useful violence, but that doesn’t help me recover from my trauma any faster.
As far as I’m concerned, my abhorrence of abuse isn’t the problem. We should all agree that abuse is abhorrent. Strong reactions to abhorrent abuse are indicative of mental stability. It doesn’t matter if it’s pretend or not.
Horses are tall, hairy vegetarians capable of dog-like trust. You break that trust; you got a scared animal that breaks its training and hurts people. It’s always a human’s fault.
Humans are the same way. If you break their trust, even if it’s simple trust like clicking a link, they will think at least twice before going back to your site. They may never give your theatre money again.
Do you want the kind of insensitive lunkheads who will think less of your company for offering compassionate content warnings attending your shows? (I hope not.)
Is the discovery of abuse in the plot more important than protecting the Schrödinger’s survivors embedded in the audience? (Not if it’s hurting people.)
Who’s responsibility is it to stop apathy? (Everyone’s)
The descriptions in Wild Horses are graphic enough to disturb sensitive folks. The MRT site doesn’t have a content warning but it should. Telling viewers about the violence won’t spoil the show; content warnings give audience members time to prepare themselves so they can enjoy the show.
It took me until today, Wednesday, to write this review. I didn’t want to write a review for a theatre company that wouldn’t warn its viewers about its traumatic content. (That was my own trauma talking.) But, if I can warn others while also recommending a good show, I will. It’s the okay thing to do. Wild Horses stops streaming on Oct. 17. Get it while it’s hot.