ENNIS — The audience was quickly on its feet at the end of Saturday’s second sold-out performance of “Mojave” at Ennis’ Theatre Rocks!, and it’s no wonder. Artistic director and co-founder Bill Rhoten has crafted a riveting tale peppered with the just the right dash of comic relief, and the world premiere cast brought it to life with superb acting.
The historical drama/comedy relates the story of Olive Oatman, who garnered fame as a tattooed captive and happens to be a relative of Bill’s wife and theatre co-founder, Suzanne Rhoten. When doing some family research recently, Mrs. Rhoten was astounded to uncover her connection to Oatman, who was captured by the Yavapais in 1851, sold to the Mojaves and became a celebrity when she was ransomed back in 1856, the setting for Mr. Rhoten’s script.
Samantha Jo Green of Waxahachie is excellent as the central character, Olive; she transitions beautifully from frightened captive who can barely recall English words to a more resolute young woman ready to be reconciled to her long-lost brother Lorenzo, played by Ben Rosewell of Waxahachie.
Olive is cared for by Sarah Bowman, a larger-than-life character who was famous in her own right as an innkeeper, restaurateur, madam and camp follower of Zachary Taylor's army during the Mexican–American War. Bowman is portrayed by Waxahachie’s Lisa Rosewell, who commands and fills the stage just as the “Great Western” (Bowman’s nickname) should.
Much of the levity comes from a couple of goofball trappers played by Ennis’ Michael Hall and Waxahachie’s Aaron Green, both of whom have a great sense of timing.
The outstanding cast also includes Kate Vega of Waxahachie as Topeka, who traveled with Olive to Fort Yuma; Adrian Arteaga of Ennis as Lieutenant Reuben Twist; Amanda Canady of Ennis as Mrs. Twist; Michael Self of Ennis as Lieutenant Colonel Martin Burke; and Elizabeth Rosewell of Waxahachie as Lilly.
Audience members can flesh out their knowledge of the “Mojave” setting and time period via a display in the theatre lobby. The Oatman family Bible, old photographs, a Mojave dictionary and various informational sheets are among the displayed items.
“Mojave” continues through June 25 at Theatre Rocks!, 505 NW Main St. in Ennis. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, June 25. Tickets are $12 for students and seniors, $15 for general admission adults. For tickets and information go to TheatreRocks.com or call 972-878-5126.