Richard Marsh/Dearborn Press And Guide/August 1999
The effective portrayals in Henry Ford Community College’s summer production of “When You Comin Back Red Ryder?” make for a great character-study show. The play, done in real time, is set in a quiet diner in rural New Mexico on a Sunday morning in the late 1960s. A collection of hopeless, helpless and hapless personalities come together through random circumstances.
The wildcard in the mix is the psychotic Teddy, superbly played by Tim Jacobs. Teddy is a crime-bent war veteran with a keen perception of people’s inner feelings and an “I-don’t -care” attitude. His persona changes from one of total saneness to the extremes of various personality disorders and back frequently, sometimes several in rapid succession.
As an audience member, you do not know what to expect from him next. Jacob’s high energy portrayal of this extremely disturbed individual is phenomenal.
Teddy and his girlfriend, Cheryl, end up in the diner after his van breaks down. Teddy then plays his mind games with the patrons of the diner, each of whom has his or her own personality defect, giving Teddy a lot of material for his mental manipulating.
The cast all do an excellent job with their respective roles. These are actors’ parts, meaning they test a performer’s stage ability. All more than met that challenge.
As the customers start to arrive, so does the level of interest in the play. The show reaches an intense point once Teddy and Cheryl arrive and never drops below that level. The emotional pinnacle the cast achieved late in the play is a prime example of what theater is all about.
“Red Ryder” marks a welcome return to the director’s chair position for George Popovich, who heads the theater department at the college. This play is another well-honed theatrical effort by him. His style and directoral skills have evolved and matured during his hiatus.
The detailed props were just as stellar as the cast. The attention paid to the little details was marvelous. One such example was the menus bearing the diner’s name. Actual food being prepared was another wonderful extra that easily could have been passed on. It is elements like these that keep the standards of the HFCC drama program at its current high level.
Popovich’s penchant for special effects was evident in a wonderful touch. The window of the diner was the outside desert. At first the effect appeared to be a slide, but as the play progressed, the shadows began to elongate and ended in a full blown desert sunset. Popovich explained to be that he videotaped the last two hours before sunset in the desert when he went backpacking in the mountains near Phoenix, Arizona last spring.
1996 Page Award Winners
Outstanding Achievement By A Lead Actor In A Comedy Or Drama: Tim Jacobs
- Stephen: William J. Spicher
- Angel: Joanne Robertson
- Lyle: Michael Overbay
- Clarisse: Corey Stempien
- Teddy: Tim Jacobs
- Cheryl: Nicole Laginess