Four ways to see Peggy Jo tell her story

All of which are partly true

Hannah Duggan, Erin Rollman, Brian Colonna, Emily Harrison and Erik Edborg perform in “Peggy Jo and the Desolate Nothing” at Buntport Theater. Courtesy photo
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“A place to lie down, sit down and fry up ham and eggs” says Emily Harrison, as Peggy Jo Tallas, while she looks over the giant RV that Cowboy Bob (Brian Colonna as Peggy Jo Tallas) proposes to purchase.

“You reckon Momma would have liked it?” wonders Hanna Duggan as Peggy Jo Tallas. A wad of cash passes to the hands of car salesman Erik Edborg, who then removes his flashy plaid jacket and resumes the part of FBI agent Steve Powell, who is trying to record the history of a most unusual bank robber — yup, one Peggy Jo.

Four actors are lined up to introduce themselves as Peggy Jo when lights go up.
A long, carefully crafted image of a big RV interior fills the back of the stage against a Texas sky-blue wall at Buntport Theater this week, and the audience takes their seats to await what action will take place in and near it.

This audience member wishes she had researched Peggy Jo in advance of attending —and, better yet, read the lengthy 2005 Texas Monthly story by Skip Hollandsworth, “The Last Ride of Cowboy Bob.” It would have made little details in “Peggy Jo and the Desolate Nothing” fall neatly into place.

Buntport Theater's members are so clever at creating and staging original new works and we were happy to hear of their collaboration with Boulder's square product theatre, which has similar skills. They do share in the program that Emily Harrison of square product knew about Peggy Jo Tallas, but a brief paragraph more about this character would have helped.

“If you're ready to start your future today, see Guaranty Bank,” says the first of assorted blurbs about that bank, noted by a large sign on stage. We meet four Peggy Jo's: two age 40 one age 60 and Cowboy Bob, with bushy dark beard-a persona she sometimes used in her many successful bank robberies in Texas.

And tying the stories together is FBI agent Steve Powell, who actually existed also and spent his career chasing bank robbers and compiling their histories.

There is mention early on of “unreliable sources — that this story is partly true” and as Hannah Duggan as Peggy Jo wonders: “Where do you start to start?”

Steve advocates: “Start in the middle — let's hit the road and get the heck out of here.”
And we're off on a disjointed journey, with Momma appearing on occasion to read selections from the romance novels she's addicted to. (She highlights the steamy parts for future reference.)

Peggy Jo had a fondness for the film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” with two of the prettiest men ever, Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Could this have inspired her to embark on a shady career?

Spoiler alert: Erin Rollman as Peggy Jo stages the final, failed try in Tyler Texas, when a cashier gave her money with a package of exploding dye inserted and sirens wail immediately — with a mild “bang,” spoken by Rollman, and the lights go out.

This story is amazing in that she got away with it for years, before and after a prison stint. I wonder if another 15 minutes added to the play might fill in a few more colorful details?

I walked out feeling entertained by Buntport's quirky humor, certainly, but cut off too soon.

If you go:

“Peggy Jo and the Desolate Nothing” plays through June 21 at Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan St., Denver. Performances: 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets $13-$20, www.buntport.com, 720-946-1388.