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Local Playwright’s Cowgirls Don’t Ride Zebras is Charming and Witty

Richard Sanford Richard Sanford Local Playwright’s Cowgirls Don’t Ride Zebras is Charming and WittyCATCO is Kids presents the world premiere of Cowgirls Don’t Ride Zebras, featuring actors (from left to right) William Darby IV, Emma Shachter, Hannah Simpson, Greta James, and Ben Tracy. Photo by Joe Bishara.
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CATCOisKids opened a delightful world premiere production of local playwright Chris Leyva’s Cowgirls Don’t Ride Zebras this weekend.

The play stars Emma Shachter as book-obsessed Penny. Penny throws herself into one obsession after another, buoyed by her game friends Cassandra (Greta James) and Jackie (Abbie Ogilbee). When the play starts, she’s over the moon for a new book on cowgirls. After some cajoling of her friends to be the cows she herds they take off for the Zoo to find an appropriate steed in lieu of a horse.

They try out many of the animals at the zoo who all seem willing to help but are unsuitable for one very funny reason or another. Ben Tracy’s Velociraptor provides the strongest foil for Ogilbee’s Jackie’s realism starting with “What kind of zoo is this?” and gets some great comedic mileage out of his Ostrich. Abigail Worden lights the stage up as the equally book-obsessed Zebra the girls find at the end of their trip. Lindsey Parker’s conceited Cheetah and Wiliam Darby IV’s would-be rock star Lion get a lot of mileage out of a pecking order that has sleek jungle animals at the top. Hannah Simpson’s excruciatingly slow Hippo and diva-esque Polar Bear are highlights.

The witty pace of those vignettes, well-directed by Joe Bishara, keep Cowgirls Don’t Ride Zebras moving. What makes it sing is the natural wit rising out of situations. Leyva has a great ear for how people talk and an even better grasp for setting up an absurd situation and letting it play out without forcing it. The chemistry of the three girls at the play’s center also feels natural and organic, you believe those three are friends. The play’s a delightful tribute to enthusiasm and curiosity with some strong laughs for even cynical adults like myself.

Cowgirls Don’t Ride Zebras runs through March 12 with shows at 9:45 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. Thursday, 9:45 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 7:30 p.m. Friday, and 1:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For tickets and more info, visit catco.org/catco-is-kids/2016-2017/cowgirls-dont-ride-zebras.

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