When have to face reality and truthWhen have to face reality and truth

When You Comin Back,
Red Ryder? was
written by Mark Medoff, in 1973. It was first performed by the Circle Repertory
Theatre Company in November of 1973. The director was Kennth Fankel, the set
was by Bill stabile, costumes were by Penny Davice, and the lighting was
designed by Cheryl Thacker. This was presented at the Eastside Playhouse in New
York City. The play is set in the late 1960s in a diner off of a newly built
major interstate in Southern New Mexico. It now belongs in a small town that
not many people travel through anymore, and there are hardly any people that
live there now. There are two workers, Angel and Lyle, and then the boss of the
Diner is Clark. Lyle is an owner of an adjacent gas station, and comes into the
diner frequently. Richard and Clarisse are upscale people that stop by, and
then Teddy and Cheryl come in as well, creating a disruption in the usual
boring routine world that these people live in. Mark Medoff won an Obie award
for a Distinguished Play in 1974 for When
You Comin Back, Red Ryder? There was an off-off Broadway revival in 2009. A
film was also made of this play that Medoff adapted. It was made in 1979. When You Comin Back, Red Ryder? represents
transitioning America, which surprisingly is happening all of the time. The
plot, characters, and thought of this play truly set off the theme of this
play, it puts the audience into a realization that you cannot be stuck in these
dreams you have, you have to face reality and truth head on, it’s the only way
you will make it in the world.

            Mark
Medoff was born to very intelligent people. His mother was a psychologist and
his father was a Physician. He went to school at the University of Miami and
also Stanford University. He initially went to school from writing, and then
moved on into teaching and became a part of the Drama program at New Mexico
State University, making him able to put up his own writing on the stage. Medoff
is a playwright, actor, and director. Many of his plays come to the terms of
the modern world, showing how we dismiss traditional values, and let our egos,
greed, and ambitions become the ideals that are accepted in the world. Medoff
has received many awards and honors for his numerous amounts of works. These
awards and honors include, the Guggenheim fellowship, Outer Critics Circle
Award, Obie award, Tony Award, Academy Award, and was recognized with a Doctor
of Humane Letters Degree.

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            For
this Play, we start off in a diner in New Mexico that used to be a pit stop
station until a new highway was built. Now the town is practically deserted. It
is set in the late 1960’s. In this time frame, the United States was bombarded
with the after math of World War II and the Vietnam war. There were also many
civil right protests going on at this time. Along with this, the United States
saw the assassination of their president John F. Kennedy, and saw the
assassination of Martin Luther King as well. The Cuban Missile crisis happened,
but, to end on a good note, the first man landed on the moon. In these years, a
lot was happening with the United States, we were progressing, but also
failing. Lives were lost, dreams were destroyed, some progress in the world
happened, and some mistakes were continued. The play is in the early morning of
the diner. Stephen is placed reading a newspaper and picking his teeth when
Angel arrives to the diner. She said she was late because she got in another
fight with her mother. There she tries to start up conversation with Stephen.
Both of their goals are revealed in a way, Angel like Stephen and wants him to
stay, but Stephen wants to be leave the town and make himself succeed in the
big world. Stephen likes to be called “red” which Angel does not quite understand.
Stephen likes to identify himself with the old cowboy hero, Red Ryder, where
the two share the same last name. This routine like morning goes on with Lyle
and Clark entering, saying their business and doing just daily things. Lyle
owns the adjacent gas station and motel. Coming from the motel, a couple of
high class, big city life enter the diner. Richard and Clarisse Ethredge,
Richard is a businessman and Clarisse is a successful violinist, Clarisse
carries the violin case with her. They enter to have some breakfast, not truly
breaking the atmosphere. Then Teddy and Cheryl Arrive, which brings in a
feeling of uneasiness. Teddy is a forceful man that keeps switching back and
forth from being a witty man to a slightly threatening one. Before Teddy had
arrived, there seemed to be a very routine like atmosphere, then as he came,
there is a shift into a place of power where Teddy needs to hold all of it.
Teddy lets the people in the diner know that he needs some new parts for his
car, and tells Lyle not to put the parts in, he will do it himself. Then he
talks about how he is on a trip to New Mexico, orders his food, and starts to
bother the people in the diner with uncomfortable questions and threats.
Richard wants to leave, but then soon realizes that his keys are missing and
believes that Teddy is the one that took them. Lyle also comes back, hinting
that he saw drugs in Teddy’s car and Teddy tells him that he should not have
done this. Lyle suggests him to leave, because they do not want any trouble and
from here, Richard begins accusing Teddy for stealing the keys, which then
leaves Teddy to respond with pulling out a gun. Teddy then requests money and
the violin, which Richard refuses and tells him that he will have to shoot him,
which ends act I as Teddy fires. The second act then begins with people
attending to Richard’s gun wound. Here Teddy makes the people in the diner face
reality. He forces Stephen to be a horse, and show him that he is a wimp. Lets
Angel see that the only man she will probably end up with is Lyle. He makes
Richard question his manhood. The second act is filled with Teddy’s imagination
and his emotion about the old hero Red Ryder, and the other old western heroes.
He first plays this out as “the lone rider returns to his girlfriend.” Then he
makes them dance. Teddy comes to face his own dreams that he once had and how
he lost his purpose for life and all. Things get more and more violent, but
then finally, Teddy steals money, ties everyone in the diner up, and leaves
along with leaving Cheryl behind. Clark then enters after, and you see a shift
in the characters, they all change. Clarisse stands up to Richard, Stephen gets
a ride with the Ethreges to leave town, and Angel goes home to her mom to make
up for the fight. The Major Dramatic Question of this Play is in the title and
Teddy says it with Stephen’s response: “When you coming back, Red Ryder?
Never.” Which is basically saying, when will the world turn back into what it
was? It won’t. The Protagonist is Stephen and he wants to leave town, and
finally does after the events with Teddy and then the last encounter with his
boss Clark. The inciting incident is Angel fighting with her mom before work,
thus making her late. The point of attack was the moment that Teddy and Cheryl
entered because the entire atmosphere of the play changed.

            The
Character’s of this play all have their own significant goals and stories.
Angel is about in her early 20’s and is overweight. She is described as a plain
girl. She lives with her mom and her grandma, which has her life circle around
them. Her daily routine is to be with her mom and grandma, go to work, and then
watch TV with Lyle. She cares deeply about Stephen and it seems as if her goal
is for the two of them to be together, but when he leaves, this devastates her.
She is very simple and vulnerable, but in all of the violence in the play, she
seems to be the most sympathetic. Lyle is the owner of the gas station and of
the motel. He seems around his sixties. He has some type of disability, thus
creating him to walk with a crutch/limp. He seems to have some feelings for
Angel and also wants to help Stephen with his goal of leaving town. He is very
straightforward and sensible. Lyle seemed to be the most calm in the situation
that he was in. Richard is a business man that is around his late thirties and
confident. He seems extremely manipulative and demanding towards his wife. His
personality and attitude are what makes Teddy target him and show him that he
is not the man he thinks he is and diminishes his self confidence. Clarisse is
Richard’s wife and a violinist. She is in her late 30s as well, and seems more
quiet and shy, which results in the appearance of Richard being the dominant.
She at the end reveals a strengthening of her character after all of the events
that occurred. Cheryl is the woman that comes in with Teddy, she is wearing
some very risqué clothing and is not any older than 20. She hardly speaks
throughout the entire play and just either observes everything or submits to
Teddy. At the end of the play though, she shows her independence but not
leaving with him. Clark is the boss/owner of the diner, he is a complete jerk
and only cares about money, he sees people merely as objects that help or
hinder his own life. Teddy, he is the Antagonist. He is a war veteran, around
his 30s. He is violent, intimidating, insulting, and has a god complex. He sees
the world as his own view and hates everyone that does not follow along to it.
His actions are very unpredictable and he is extremely abrasive. He wants to
get into people’s fears and desires and show them how they are wrong, he wants
the other characters to realize that they are stuck in some cloud and need to
come to their senses/reality, and realize the truth. Teddy does not want these
people to die, he wants them to live and have a sense of realization in
themselves and reevaluate their lives. In example, with Stephen, he does not
kill him, instead he says, “But your sentence ain’t to die Red, it’s to live.”
His interruption of these people’s lives force them to go into a self
evaluation and change. Stephen, the protagonist, is 19, about average/small for
his age, he is stuck in a 50s/60s look, He is rude and snarky, a smart ass, as
well as a coward. He has a born dead tattoo, hair slicked back and a short
sleeve shirt with open buttons. Stephen is definitely someone that is lost in
the clouds. He acts as if he knows everything and can do whatever he wants, but
in fact, he is just scared. He is unsatisfied with his life, but uses excuses
not to fix it, and Teddy sees right through this, making him come to terms with
it and finally decide to leave town.

            There
has to be a lot of thought in this play or it will not succeed. The title of
the play, and Teddy’s line of, “When you comin back, Red Ryder?” serves as the
entire theme of the play, just in a more hidden sense. It stresses the
question, when will the world go back to what is used to be? And the answer, as
said by Stephen, is “Never.” This play was meant to show that in a changing
world, we cannot believe that our dreams, and egos, and everything will get us
through, we have to see the mistakes and flaws, and come to terms with them, as
well as face our fears. The truth hurts, but we need it to survive. This play
shows a sense of realization in the characters and moves the theme or perceived
reality and the real world. This book has the same structure and seemed to be
modeled after The Petrified Forest by
Robert Sherwood, which is set in a diner in middle America. It deals with
people that seem to dream and create myths about themselves until some random
criminal comes and takes them out of this façade that they put themselves in.
The Medoff’s other works, like The
Majestic Kid, and The Kramer carry the same type of conflict. This play
definitely reflected the world at its recent previous and present time. Medoff
wrote the way he did for his audience/readers to see the world as it was and
its truths of reality. I believe that he wrote this play for an off Broadway
type of theatre, but yet, also believe he wanted this to be educational. This
play is supposed to bring this audience into the diner, and have the audience
see themselves in each one of the characters to them come out facing possibly
their own reality. The direction of this play is so important, and putting
thought into how it is perceived will make it either succeed or fail. The
message that is brings is timeless and universal, the world will always need a
reality check, but the play being based off of an old western character, Red
Ryder, already gives it a disadvantage for interest, because the character has
passed its time. This is where it is a must that the message of who Red Ryder
is and what he represents, must come across and then the entire performance
must be evaluated to make sure that the play is displaying the right message
that it needs to.

            The
diction, music, and spectacle are not as important to the play as the Plot,
Character, and Thought are, but they are still extremely important in general,
and play a major part into this play. The style of diction is not as huge,
besides the characters having to create their own sense of style according to
their characters. This is because, the way people speak, gives off impressions
on who they are. Teddy on the other hand, has half of a Western accent, and
then an accent of something else, thus creating a challenge for the actor to be
able to figure out when he needs to use it and when he does not. The
actors/director also need to look at the different types of silence that is
used within the play. Mostly, how much silence is used after Teddy speaks to
the characters and make them reveal their truths. Diction has a weird type of
musical effect in this play by the rhythm of how people speak to each other,
and their responses to the events happening. Many different sound effects in
the play would include sounds like in the kitchen, with pots and pans, dishes,
and forks and spoons. Then there is a Jukebox that does play music when Teddy
forces everyone to dance. Other than that, I do not believe that this play
calls for any other type of music in it, that is absolutely necessary. Then
lastly, spectacle. The set needs to be a diner that is around the looks of a
waffle house. It is known to be an in and out type of place. Along with that,
creating a smell in the audience would help put them inside of the diner even
more. This should be small and close knit, yet also it would need to be wary of
the blocking and how things needed to happen throughout the show with the
amount of events and actions that take place. Also, there should only be one
door, creating only one entrance and exit for everyone, and making the stakes
rise a little more.

            When You Comin Back, Red Ryder? represents
transitioning America, which surprisingly is happening all of the time. The
plot, characters, and thought of this play truly set off the theme of this
play, it puts the audience into a realization that you cannot be stuck in these
dreams you have, you have to face reality and truth head on, it’s the only way
you will make it in the world. This is a play with a very detailed plot and
very specific characters to it. Much thought must be put into this play to
ensure its sense of timelessness and make the audience understand its meaning
and message. There is some part of us in each one of these characters that we
must see one day, and face the truth, to then overcome it. To see this though,
would be impossible without the use of plot, character, thought, diction,
music, and spectacle. These elements are how you bring alive this play, and
also all plays.