Guns. An American way of life. And death. The ubiquitous weapons which made the West wild.

A young New Yorker, Ransome Foster, seeking a better existence, finds that threatened on such lawless plains. This stranger in town becomes a target in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence  at Omaha Community Playhouse in a play by British theatre director Jethro Compton. Compton’s script of three years ago set sights on the themes of good versus evil, revenge and justice, adapting a story by Dorothy M. Johnson, the basis for the John Wayne-starring 1962 movie.

Fresh love supports Foster against the odds,giving him courage. The script “boldly treads its own path” said London’s The Stage for “a highly atmospheric, visceral adaptation” resonating “loud and clear.”

Barely 30 years old now, Compton actually wrote more plays akin to this one in The Frontier Trilogy,  plus an adaptation of Shakespeare‘s Macbeth  relocated to the First World War. or

This production is considered an official event in Nebraska’s sesquicentennial celebration, which, among other things, calls attention to the state’s growth. In 1867, around the time when neighboring territory was becoming famously wild, as in this story, Omaha was the starting point west for The Oregon Trail and the Pony Express. ( The film, by the way, was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress’  U.S. National Film Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

The saloon’s swinging doors and the walls around it reverberate with menace.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence runs Feb.10-Mar. 12, at Howard Drew Theatre, Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. Thurs–Sat.: 7:30 p.m. Sunday: 2 p.m. Tickets $22-$36

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