Bonnie & Clyde Raise A Little Hell

In a mix of bang-bang, lively blues, an eccentric preacher, and some hot smooching, Bonnie and Clyde live once again through a melodic, turbulent, and romantic musical show.

The Main Stage production by Santa Monica College (SMC) is based on Ivan Menchell's Broadway playbook. Despite it being inspired by the real-life Bonnie and Clyde, it takes its own artistic liberties when musically exploring the story of the early 1930's outlaws turned folk heroes. Having the struggles of rural communities during the Great Depression as background, it tells the story of a poor waitress, Bonnie Parker, and farmboy, Clyde Barrow, as they become wanted criminals.

In this production, the journey is certainly what matters most, as it starts exactly where it ends; with the death of Bonnie and Clyde, massacred in a police ambush in Louisiana on May 23, 1934. This historical event occured exactly 85 years prior to the preview opening at SMC.

Bonnie is described as a "good girl," with Hollywoodian dreams, crushed by her reality in weary West Dallas. Meanwhile, bad-tempered Clyde has been on the lam from a young age, praising violence and Billy the Kid. Unlike in 1967's celebrated Arthur Penn film adaptation, stage Clyde is everything but impotent. When Bonnie and Clyde meet, their chemistry becomes a driven force. They are both passionate and explosive, leading to a hot-blooded relationship. They fight often and make up quickly, revealing an appreciation for the heat of the moment which is intrinsic in the characters more than just sexually.

Confident and provoking, the troublesome duo drive around the American Southeast and Southwest in a stolen V8 Ford, robbing small banks and businesses, throwing tantrums, and madly making love. They toy with law enforcement, often sending letters and photos to the newspapers, inciting their own celebrity status. The couple is later joined by Clyde’s brother, Buck Barrow, and his wife, Blanche. Buck is conflicted about the criminal lifestyle, mostly due to religious morality and fear of putting his wife in danger. Regardless, he can’t get himself to abandon Clyde and decides to join him, forming the infamous Barrow Gang.

In their quest for excitement lies the conflict of their actions. For Clyde, it seems simple, you either kill or you die. It is also hinted that he is physically mistreated while in prison and his actions might be Robin-Hood inspired. He despises the legal system due to police harassment and harsh punishments for his small infractions. As for Bonnie, an acting career is undoable and she finds the attention she dreamed of through criminal delinquency. She is happy to be described in the papers as a “ravishing redhead,” but is upset there isn’t a nice picture of her to go with it. When Bonnie contemplates being killed as she beautifully sings the ballad “Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad,” she doesn't mind it much. She dislikes the small-town mentality and boringness, claiming everyone else is “dead” besides her and her beau, which are very much alive.

"They killed a lot of people, mainly police, but they were really folk heroes of their time, people loved them, applauded them when they came, even though they were killers," adds play director Dr. Adrianne Harrop. "There's something American Western about that. It's not English, it's definitely American."

Amidst the gunshots and constant uneasiness, the show thrives with its humorous moments, often dark and involving religious sarcasm and infidelity. There is not much room on stage for big dance numbers, but the audience gets a taste of it in the church scenes which symbolize suffering and forgiveness. The atmosphere in the theater is instantly lifted as the raspy-voiced, energetic preacher puts on some Gospel.

The young cast, many fresh out of high school, give an extra sense of recklessness. It reminds the audience that behind the history and the legends, Bonnie and Clyde were merely 19 and 20 when they met. Freshmen Valeria Castaño and Joseph Martinez, who give vibrant life to the leading couple, are inversely 20 and 19 themselves.

Bonnie and Clyde is currently running at the SMC Theater Complex. Advanced sale prices are $20 for general admissions and $17 for senior citizens, SMC students, faculty and staff. At-the-door purchases cost an additional $3.

Showtimes available

May 31 and June 1 at 8pm.

June 1 and 2 at 2pm.