Dust Can’t Kill Me, a new play directed by Jacob Osborne, DC ’16, shows us that a lot more than we might expect can happen in the middle of a desert; there’s a prophet, a dust storm, a baby, a number of ghosts, and a couple of love stories to boot. The show is a self-described “folk musical” and quasi-apocalyptic parable set in the barren plains of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, part ghost story, part myth, and part Dixie Stampede. The story focuses on two groups of desperate wanderers who meet deep in the desert after following the words of a mysterious prophet.
By and large, the production team has done an impressive job. Elliah Heifetz’s, TC ’15, romping ensemble numbers have a little bit of gospel choir in them, and the show is staged with rousing do-si-dos and hearty harmonies. Abigail Carney, JE ’15, weaves darkly farcical humor into a script performed adeptly by the seven-member cast. The set, mostly stacks of plywood boxes made barren and magnificent by a shadow screen, is deliberately and appropriately spare.
The story itself manages to switch between tall tale and rough-edged drama with remarkable fluidity thanks to strong performances from the cast, headed by Lily Shoretz, TC ‘16, and Alyssa Miler, PC ‘16. There are the aforementioned do-si-dos, but there are also lamentations over a lost child, and both are presented as equal parts of the performance without detracting from the overall tone. Both Shoretz and Miller bring remarkable depth and vocal talent to their characters.
Dust Can’t Kill Me somehow manages to be both uncompromisingly earnest and deeply cynical, a merry slapstick and an almost-tragedy. That’s a lot to ask from a two-hour show, but Dust Can’t Kill Me succeeds brilliantly.