Oedipus West


   Ron Campbell                                                 soarfeat@ gmail.com

Oedipus West

(a travesty)




Chorus (a posse of men on horseback)

                                Ed (a shepherd/gunslinger)

Laius (Mayor of Thebes)

Josephine “Joe” Casta (Saloon girl)

Sam Shepherd (shepherd)

A Citizen of Thebes


Western Greece

(Lights come up on an empty stage. A tumbleweed saunters by.  In the distance, the sound of hoof beats. Growing louder. Suddenly a posse of men on horseback enter. Or they could have broomsticks with little horsey heads on one end, depending on budget. They dismount and address the audience:)


Now sit right back and hear a little tale

That will hit your heart just like a hammer hits a nail.

‘Bout a cool gunslinger and an ornery ‘cus

Who rode for a ranch that they call The Atrius.

See, a child was born to a gal they called “Joe” Casta.

Little did she know her life would turn into disasta.

See, a medicine man, tricky as a coyote

Had a vision from the Great Spirit, and we quote:

“That may be the cutest baby that you ever did saw

But sure as shit to Sunday, he’ll screw his mom and shoot his paw.

Now you can drink yourself to death, Chew tabacky, take peyote                    2

But you can’t avoid a prophecy from an injun called Coyote.”

So she gave him to a shepherd, who had a herd of sheep

Gave him boots much too small- (Injuns called him “Swollen Feet.”)

Oedipus, yip-ee yi yay,

Oedipus, yip-ee yee,

Swollen Feet, yip-ee yi yay yippy yee.

But the shepherd took pity on this little papoose

And when Joe Casta wasn’t looking, let the little tyke loose.

Adopted by some pilgrims, hard working country plebes

And he grew into a man in the mountains North of Thebes.

So our story begins at the lonely crossroads

Somewhere between Dodge City and the Colossus of Rhodes…

(Enter Ed stage left with a herd of sheep. Enter Laius stage right, driving a covered wagon. Neither can get by on the narrow trail. They try, but fail. finally:)



Move that ‘gol durn wagon or I’ll kick you farther than a Death Valley buzzard can smell a dry canteen! Cain’t you see I’ve a herd of bleetin’ sheep I’m a-tryin to get across this bleetin’ crossroads? What the bleetin’ hell’s wrong with you?


There was much more cussing but we bleeted it out.


As Paul Revere said at the end of his wild ride: “Woah”. Can’t you see I’ve a wagon load of vittles, fixins, fat back and gristle that I must get across the Spartan Plains ‘fore sundown? Now move that passle of mangy varmints ‘fore I shoot you so full of holes I’ll be able to take you back to my sumptuous ranch and use you for a screen door!


Well cut off my legs and call me shorty. Them’s sounds like fightin’ words. Why don’t you get off that wagon and see if you can back up that chin music with


them shiny Colts I see a-strapped on your hips. Or are they just for show?


Now you gone and riled me, pilgrim.

There’s only one way to settle this: we’ll count to three. Then we both slap leather!


Sounds fine to me.

Now climb down off that fancy wagon of yours and cut the crap. And don’t be a sore loser when you take a dirt nap.

(He steps down off the wagon. The two men face each other, trigger fingers itching. The herd of sheep watch, breathlessly.)



Let’s count ’em off.






(Rushing on.)

According to the rules of Drama, this is the part you shouldn’t see.

But we all know what happened when they reached number three.

Oedipus, yip-ee yi yay,

Oedipus, yip-ee yee,

Swollen Feet, yip-ee yi yay yippy yee

Young Ed left that crossroads without a trace of guilt-

Just a million dollar smile and a notch on his hilt.

When he rode into Thebes he saw what he expected least:

A woman headed half eagle/lion mythical beast.


And as sure as the plains are flat and the sky is blue

She was using the townspeople for her bar-b-que.

Seems this Sphinx had a riddle had the whole town confounded.

(Turns out that the answer was much simpler than it sounded.)

Main Street was deserted, but Ed rode tall in the saddle-

Solved the riddle of the Sphinx, and made it skedaddle.

This is the part of the story our author couldn’t quite make scan-

Suffice it to say that the answer was “man”.

So now the town is so grateful- having a Sphinx in town just stinks-

So they they make young Ed the mayor- And buy him lots of drinks.

And the saloon girl Joe Casta- (She’s a widow now you know)

Takes a liking to this fast drawing- sheep herdin’- riddle solvin’ so and so.

And sure as the prairies flat, the sky is blue and yer blood is crimson red,

The newly elected mayor of Thebes takes Joe Casta to his bed.

Oedipus, yip-ee yi yay,

Oedipus, yip-ee yee,

Swollen Feet, yip-ee yi yay yippy yee

But rumors start to fester, lubricated by tonsil varnish

And like un-oiled six guns, Ed’s reputation starts to tarnish.

(Enter a disgruntled Citizen, joining the Chorus. He whispers:)


Boss Laius never returned from his trip to Corinth

‘Bout the same time Mayor Ed arrived- could it be coincidorinth?

We gave him our cities’ key for passing that Sphinx’s test-

And now he rules with iron hand; The Fascist Gun of the West.

(The Citizen and the Chorus retreat upstage and watch as Ed and Joe Casta enter. We are now on the veranda of the Ranch of Atrius.)






I have issues! Was I adopted? What’s my real name? Nothing works like a rock

in my boot more than not knowing who I am!


Oh my husband! Don’t ask that. No one knows who they truly are!


But I must. Even if it kills me!

Bring me that Shepherd. The one with “The Flock”.


What “The Flock” are you talking about?


The one that Injun medicine man says holds the reins to my identity. That shepherd from North of Thebes. His name is Sam, I think.

Yes. Sam Shepherd. That’s the one.


No! Not him! He knows nothing! If you put his brains in the ass of an ant they’d rattle around like a bb in a boxcar!


…Nonetheless. Bring him hither! I will palaver with him.


Oh Ed, I can’t bear this! I’m taking the stage all the way to Delphi.

I’ll get out there. Then I’ll be off stage.


Suit yourself, woman. Here comes the Shepherd.

(Sam appears in the distance, a dot in the desert landscape. He starts walking. When he finally arrives on stage we see he is old, but is married to Jessica Lange)



Boss Ed, Mayor of Thebes. Head Honcho of the Ranch of Atrius. Riddle Solver Extraordinaire. Interstate Bull Whip Champion, 4H Club Sheep Husbandry Finalist-



I have heard rumors that you were given a baby from this ranch many years ago. Is this true?


I can only say one word. And that word is: Yep.


And what did they tell you to do with that youngin’?


They told me to stuff it’s tiny feet into little pointy-toed boots and leave it on the mountain to die.


Did you do this?


I can only say one word and that word is: Nope.


What did you do?


I gave the child to some pilgrims North of Thebes.


And what did they do?


They raised the child well. By day he learned the quick draw and sheep herding from his new father. When the sun set, his adopted mother helped him while away the lonely hours in their remote cabin by solving obtuse but alarmingly simple riddles together. And so it was, until the day they sent him


to the stockyards in Thebes with a herd of sheep… They never heard from him again.


(with mounting dread:)

And who was that baby that they raised so lovingly?

Where did he come from?


He was one of the children of the Ranch of Atrius.


I must know: was he some hired hands squirt or was he Boss Laius’ own kin?

I must know.


Oh Sufferin’ Tarnation! I cannot say! It’s too dad-gasted for words!


Was he Laius’ and Joe Casta’s child?

Yep or Nope?


…I shall only say one word. Prepare yourself, pardner, for the worst sylable you shall ever hear:




(Ed takes off his boots, revealing hideously swollen feet, grabs the spurs in each hand and exits howling.)




(The Chorus comes forward, mounting their horses.)





They say tragedies get easier the more times you see ’em.

And tumbleweeds now cross upstage of this Pro-seen-ium.

But sure as plains are flat, blood is red and the sky is blue

Some stories never die and you know one thing is true:

You can drink yourself to death, chew tabacky, take peyote

But you can’t avoid a prophecy from an Injun called Coyote.

(The Chorus rides off into the sunset, but we can hear their song slowly fade as they disappear over the horizon…)


Oedipus, yip-ee yi yay,

Oedipus, yip-ee yee,

Swollen Feet, yip-ee yi yay yippy yee…





oedipus west.doc

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