Sam Bass Community Theatre’s Flaming Idiots

Big heart propels the slamming doors and zippy one-liners of this production of Tom Rooney's farce

<i>Flaming Idiots</i>
Flaming Idiots (Photo by Sam Bass Theatre)

The Old Depot Stage, home of Sam Bass Community Theatre, is an absolutely magical space with a history to match. The building started its life as a depot for the Round Rock leg of the Union Pacific Railroad, but in the early Eighties was purchased by the founders of Sam Bass (the asking price was one dollar), converted into a performance venue, and moved to its current location near the banks of Brushy Creek in lovely Memorial Park. Ever since, this Round Rock-based company has been staging plays as well as providing the community with workshops and theatre camps for people of all ages.

Flaming Idiots, Sam Bass' latest show, is a modern-day farce penned by Tom Rooney and the directorial debut for Sara DeSoto, who has been an actor with the company for the last three years. The story goes like this: Phil and Carl are two ex-postal clerks that have gone in halfsies on a restaurant venture. So far, it is not going well. Despite a talented chef and a well-connected financial backer, the bills are adding up and the dining room remains empty. As the two entrepreneurs mull over ways to get bodies in seats, it occurs to them that Zippy's, the most popular joint in town, gained notoriety because a famous mobster was murdered there. Could a similar incident be the key to their success? There's also an amorous cop who rides a belligerent horse, an extremely forgetful assassin, a busboy who's in over his head, an actor waiting on his big break, a restaurant reviewer who's extra-cheeky, a dead body, and a signature drink – the Flaming Idiot.

Rooney's text stays true to farcical form, rife with quick one-liners and even quicker puns. It's as much fun to hear as it is for the actors to say, and the actors are having a blast. Michael Rodriguez and Jennifer Gonzalez gave the standout performances of the evening, and while the theatre itself is small, one can't help but marvel at the big heart behind this production.

In most farces, there's a key moment in the last act where lots of doors are opening and closing, characters are coming and going, and general chaos and confusion ensues. During that sequence of onstage events, timing is everything. One misstep, one line flub, one botched costume change, and the whole chain of events falls apart. It is, by far, one of the most difficult things to pull off seamlessly in a live theatre setting. When the time came in Flaming Idiots for doors to start slamming, nobody missed a beat. This bodes well for DeSoto's future work at Sam Bass.

Currently, the Old Depot Stage is in need of some repairs, and while Union Pacific has stepped in with a grant to help, Sam Bass Community Theatre ultimately needs (and is much deserving of) the support of the community it serves. To get involved, go to Or at the very least, take an evening, go to Memorial Park, and catch a pleasant play in a little building filled with big history.

Flaming Idiots

Old Depot Stage, 600 N. Lee, Round Rock
Through March 25
Running time: 1 hr., 40 min.

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Sam Bass Community Theatre, Sara DeSoto, Tom Rooney, Michael Rodriguez, Jennifer Gonzalez, Old Depot Stage

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