Kitchen Dog Theater Goes 26 Miles in New Road-Trip Play

Theater Caps are bite-sized punch-packing capsule reviews by resident theater critic Elaine Liner. Use them as a reminder -- or a teaser, if you procrastinate -- of her full-length reviews in The Mixmaster's weekly sister.

It's probably not the best idea to make a play about a cross-country road trip. There's a reason they call them "road movies" and there are reasons there are no "road plays."

You need big landscapes for a good story about two people driving through the nation's heartland together. You need to see those seedy motel rooms, greasy diners, neon-lit truck stops and maybe some purple mountains' majesty.

On the stage, as it is in Kitchen Dog Theater's latest, 26 Miles, what you get is a lot of talking while somebody pretends to use a steering wheel attached to a plywood set. It's silly. There's just so much suspension of disbelief you can extend for a scene in which characters describe prairies and sunsets you can't see.

If only playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes had provided better dialogue and a less cliché situation for the main characters, a precocious tenth-grader named Olivia (Allie Donnelly) and her long-estranged birth-mom Beatriz (Christina Vela). The two hit the highways out of Pennsylvania for an impromptu quest to see buffalo in Wyoming, getting to know each other again along the way.

Their squabbles and confessions have that dreaded Lifetime movie cadence and the end of the story is far too pat. Nice performances by the cast, directed by KDT co-artistic director Tina Parker. But the long and winding road in this story belongs on a screen, not a stage.

26 Miles continues through December 10 at Kitchen Dog Theater. Call 214-953-1055.

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