Never having read the book or seen the movie (at least not in this millennium), I can't speak to what has changed with this adaptation, but the plot points seem to be much the same as the Wiki summary. Joe and Marian Starrett, along with their son Bobby, are homesteaders who came to Wyoming as part of the Homestead Act, and are being threatened by a rancher named Fletcher who uses intimidation and violence to scare farmers off the land. In this version of the story, the Starretts are Mexican, with Joe's father being White to explain the name. Shane is a former enslaved person, who fought in the Civil War, with hints at darker parts of his past. He wants to turn over a new leaf as he settles in on the family farm, but this war with Fletcher draws him back into his violent past. The one added character is an Indigenous woman named Winona, who serves as a sort of liaison to the native communities in Fletcher's dealings. Their stories are woven organically into the larger narrative in a way that doesn't feel forced or preachy, but rather adds more depth and specificity to it.
|the Starretts (Ricardo Chivera and Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey)
with Winona (Shayna Jackson) and Fletcher (Bill McCallum)
(photo by Dan Norman)
I had a front row view of this cast, and they're all terrific (even down to the "essentials" Kaleb Baker and Gabe Woodard who move furniture in character and get to participate in the fight scenes). As the title character, you couldn't ask for anyone better than William DeMeritt, dark and mysterious, with hidden depths and stories we only get a glimpse of, hard yet with an inner softness. Juan Arturo is a strong narrator as Bobby, instantly transforming into an adorable and precocious eight-year-old when he steps into the scenes. Ricardo Chavira (part of the Guthrie Experience class of 1999 before embarking on a successful TV career, from Desperate Housewives to the current Netflix series Glamorous) returns to the Guthrie and is a warm and strong Joe. Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey is equally warm and strong as Marian, a tender and grounded chemistry between them. Shayna Jackson's Winona is smart and capable and does what she has to to help her people, while Grant Goodman gives two opposite performances, as a good guy farmer and a not-so-good hired gun. A trio of local actors complete the cast - Mikell Sapp as a young and brash employee of Fletcher, Bill McCallum as the elegantly cruel Fletcher, and #TCTheater's favorite Western actor Terry Hempleman in dual roles.
|photo by Mikki Schaffner
This is how you reinvent an American classic, adding back in the missing voices and stories to create a fuller and more accurate picture of our history, while remaining true to the spirit of the original, and above all creating a wildly entertaining and gorgeously told story. I've recently been listening to a podcast called Wilder about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House series of novels. They talk about a similar thing, that Black people, Latinx people, Indigenous people, and immigrants were a part of the pioneer history of America, but Wilder chose not to write about them, except tangentially and often in not flattering (or accurate) terms. But their stories exist, and as grown-up Bobby says at the end of the play, all of these stories are part of the land, part of our history. It's refreshing to see those stories woven back into our classic historical tales, giving us a fuller and richer portrait of the past. More than refreshing, it's necessary.
I highly recommend you catch Shane at the Guthrie Theater through August 27, before he rides out of town to parts unknown, leaving only his memory behind.