In 'Hellcab,' a driver gets an education in humanity, one fare at a time

Last Updated by Chip Chandler on
A passenger (Cliff McCormick) gives his driver an earful in "Hellcab."

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

There's an old aphorism that tells us not to judge someone until we've walked a mile in their shoes.

Hellcab, a drama opening Friday at R&R Backroom, suggests that we not judge until we've driven them a few blocks in a taxi.

The drama will be staged at 9 p.m. Friday, Sunday and July 22 and 23 in the alternative theater space at the bar, 701 S. Georgia St. Tickets are $10. Call or text 806-341-5141 for reservations.

In the show, a perennially popular drama in Chicago since it was first staged there in 1992, a nameless driver (played by newcomer Kyle Gipson) travels the city on Christmas Eve and picks up about 25 different fares, each bringing their own drama.

The Looker (Kayla Fuller) propositions the driver (Kyle Gipson) in "Hellcab," opening Friday.The Looker (Kayla Fuller) propositions the driver (Kyle Gipson) in "Hellcab," opening Friday.

There's The Looker (Kayla Fuller), who shamelessly hits on the driver. Steve (Cliff McCormick) appears to be a thoroughly vile human being. A stoner girl and a crackhead (Jo Early and Cody Johnson, respectively) blaze up in the back seat. Shalita (Katasha Kat) talks about life on her corner, if you catch my drift and I think you do.

"He seems like a pretty level-headed guy to put up with all of these characters on an even keel," Gipson said. "But he still has some prejudgments in him. He learns to wait a beat longer before making a judgment."

His fares don't make it easy, even when the driver tries to get involved. A receptionist (Early again; all of the actors besides Gipson play seven or eight different characters) has no interest in hearing that the oss she's having an affair with may not be trustworthy, for example.

"He's a good guy, but he gets that good-guy self tested," said director Ronnie Lloyd Nanos. "Sometimes he tries to be good, and he gets the door slammed in his face. And someone he has misjudged turns out to be the kindest one to him."

A receptionist (Jo Early) ignores a driver's (Kyle Gipson) advice in R&R Backroom's "Hellcab."A receptionist (Jo Early) ignores a driver's (Kyle Gipson) advice in R&R Backroom's "Hellcab."

Nanos was introduced to the drama, written by San Antonio native Will Kern, by a director friend in Las Vegas, where Nanos has a side career as a performer and choreographer when he's not in Amarillo running R&R. (He added the Backroom entertainment space more than two years ago to stage alternative theater and burlesque shows.)

"I like that it's still a little edgy," Nanos said of the play, which still gets regular stagings in Chicago, where Kern wrote it based on his own experiences as a cab driver.

"He (the driver) sees all walks of life and has to treat them equally and be subject to their judgment of him as well," Nanos said. "He's accepting humanity as it is."

Kern, who now teaches at Sungshin Women’s University in South Korea and recently published his first novel, told the San Antonio Express-News in a February article that he's bothered that the drama hasn't become dated in the quarter-century since he wrote it.

“I was really saddened by the fact that nothing has changed in 25 years,” he said. “We still have racism and we still have brutality to women and we still have all of these problems that have never been corrected.”

Gipson said he hopes audiences listen to the show's message.

"We need a little more toleration from everybody," he said. "It couldn't hurt."

 

Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at Chip.Chandler@actx.edu, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and at www.facebook.com/chipchandlerwriter on Facebook.

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