Monday, 25 January 2016 02:58

GERONIMO Life on the Reservation

Written by Radomir Vojtech Luza - Theatre Critic
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If you want to see a play about the life of Apache Indian leader Geronimo, make a beaten path to Janelle Meraz Hooper's one person show starring Rudy Ramos, "GERONIMO Life on the Reservation," playing at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks through February 20th.

This is the story of the famed Apache warrior's life as told by one actor from a script penned by author/playwright Hooper and portrayed by Ramos with a depth that digs far deeper than merely Geronimo's days on the reservation.

The solo show presents many more questions than answers as is the case with the Native American experience as a whole.

Hooper's language is not fancy or Shakespearean in style, but gets to the core of the overwhelming courage the Indian leader showed in devoting his life to Apache ideals such as God, family and land while fending off soldiers, settlers and Indian spies who misunderstood the Native American way of life.

The words are specific, down to earth and alive.

They tell the story with salt and pepper not vinegar and oil.

Hooper, who is an award-winning novelist with a life-long interest in American West history, makes us, the audience, read between the lines for the truth.

The truth, in this case, is tragic.

Geronimo, once a great leader and warrior, finds himself spending the last 23 years of his life as a prisoner of war in Florida and Alabama prisons, and finally, in Fort Sill, Oklahoma where instead of living a peaceful existence as an Apache leader, guide and fighter, he is relegated to mere celebrity and entrepreneur surviving any way he can by making money on his past and our fascination with the mostly extinct Native American way of life.

The play also demonstrates Geronimo's charm, grace and aplomb in dealing with difficult and dangerous situations put before him.

His was certainly not an easy life, but lived with a courage, temperament and reason that proved his stature highly influential, noteworthy and productive.

Geronimo, as this one-person effort shows, was deeply creative as well as brave and logical. Without these traits he would not have lived as long as he did.

Like many of his fellow Native American brothers and sisters, he fought for his beliefs, borders and banner while facing not one, but two armies: the American and Mexican.

As this one-person play proves, the Apache leader was a living and breathing example of resilience, resourcefulness and relevance in a time when Native Americans were considered second class citizens.

Steve Railsback's direction is constructive, cognitive and highly creative.

The veteran stage and screen actor does not stand in Ramos' way, but instead adds bits and pieces of behavior and movement, such as Geronimo's pacing back and forth at the very beginning of the show, that give this one person tour de force its unique meaning and purpose.

Railsback should consider directing more projects where he can make the same sort of artistic choices that he did here.

But it is Ramos (Geronimo), who runs away with the show.

Geronimo Western Dress

In a turn at once highly realistic and eloquently soulful, he does not go too far up or down in delivery, intonation, or demeanor, but maintains a balance that Geronimo himself would be proud of.

Ramos, who has acted alongside Clint Eastwood and Ryan O'Neal and been directed by Walter Hill, displays a cerebral and emotional depth and understanding of Hooper's writing that give him the ability to interpret the character he plays vividly, fiercely and with great wisdom, humor and feeling.

Adding to the message of the show are David Svengalis' production design, Marcos Loya's music and sound effects and costumer Michael Castellano's work.

As with the script, and any virtuoso performance, the truth here lies between the lines.

Geronimo is not an easy character to play given his tormented past, haunted present and delicate future, but Ramos crawls along the razor's edge with great precision, poise and presence.

GERONIMO Life on the Reservation, then, succeeds because of the difficult nature of the Apache leader's life not despite it.

It is a cut above many solo shows because of Hooper's far-reaching grasp of Native American life, Railsback's brilliant eye and Ramos' brave, effortless and intuitive effort.

If one looks and listens closely enough, he or she can indeed see the same sky, stars, rivers, seas, buffalo and storms that Geronimo did in the length and width of this moving elegy.

The longing for a life away from the confines, clutter and chaos of the reservation where he was placed after his final surrender in 1886 is never farfrom the noble Apache's heart and mind, and portrayed with a sublime stillness and solemnity by Ramos.

This 60 minute one person show with no intermission begins with Geronimo intentionally looking at us looking back at him, and ends with him donning a suit and hat and exhibiting without a doubt the death of not only a people, but a way of life.

In between we see the arc of an important and influential first American's life.

In the end, it is an existence that slowly deteriorates until one can no longer differentiate between Geronimo, the seminal Indian leader and hero, and Geronimo, the celebrity signing autographs for money.

If this show is any indication of the rest of the Whitefire's Solofest 2016, the Sherman Oaks theatre is onto something not only profound and brave, but rareand beautiful.

Kudos to all.

Show Times:
Saturdays at 8 PM through February 21st


Ticket Prices:

$20, Student/Group rates available.

Buy Tickets: 
Information: 805-657-8117 or visit

(805) 657-8117

Whitefire Theatre,13500 Ventura Blvd.,
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423


Read 7944 times Last modified on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 02:32

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