Retired marshal Bert McGraw tries to give up his gun-slinging ways, but is forced to wear his holster one last time to defend the family ranch against the encroaching railroad and its gang of cutthroats led by the notorious Sanchez. A tale of redemption as big as the Old West itself, Rio Hondo is a sendup of the good-ol’ fashioned Westerns you grew up loving. Utilizing Western tropes to investigate the struggle between the needs of the individual and those of the community in a rapidly changing country, this laugh-a-minute comedy will have audiences rollin’ in the aisles.
Reluctant gunfighter and ex-marshal Bert McGraw returns to the dangerous frontier town Rio Hondo to see his ailing brother. Dropping by the saloon to make amends with an ex-girlfriend, Rosarita, he runs into nemesis— and newly hired marshal— Sanchez. The trigger-happy bandito challenges the reticent McGraw, but he demurs, accidentally murdering one of Sanchezʼs men in the process.
When Bert reaches the family ranch, The Double-B, his sister-in-law Clementine informs him of his brotherʼs passing, and of Sanchez and the coming railroadʼs plans to take the ranch. In soliciting his help to save the home she loves so much, a flashback is triggered where Bert confronts the tragedy that made him quit marshaling in the first place: his accidental shooting of a small boy during a bank robbery. Before Clem can convince Bert to help her, Sanchez arrives to arrest him. In the ensuing gunfight, Bert and Clem— and ranch hands Flapjack and Ding-Ding— fend off the invaders, forcing Bertʼs hand to aid in the fight.
In town, Sanchez and railroad representative Cole agree to put pressure on The Double-B by hiring renowned killer Eudora Cummings. Back at the ranch, Clementineʼs blind sister, Iris, arrives with a posse of aspiring gunfighters. Unfortunately, despite her reputation as the finest blind gunfighter in the West, it becomes clear that she can no longer effectively fire a gun, since sheʼs, you know, blind.
While preparing The Double-B for the next attack, Iris is confronted by the woman who blinded her: Eudora. After Iris guns her down in a duel, she is immediately shot by a member of Sanchezʼs gang lying in wait, igniting a massive gunfight killing much of the Sanchez gang and Irisʼ young sharpshooters. End Act I.
The bloodshed proves too much for Bert, and he abandons Clem. Back at the saloon, when Cole declares he wants to settle with Clementine, Sanchez shoots him dead and, in the course of the conversation, announces heʼs acquired a Gatling gun to be delivered that afternoon. A horrified Rosarita sneaks away.
Outside town, Bert is getting drunk in a saloon when Rosarita arrives to warn him about the Gatling gun. Bert still blames himself for that slain boy so many years ago, until Rosarita— in flashback form— reveals the truth: it was Sanchez! Sanchez murdered that boy, framing Bert in the process. Reassured, our hero resolves to intercept the Gatling gun and save the day.
While Sanchez, reinforced with a new group of killers, lays siege to the McGraw ranch, Bert captures the coach with the Gatling gun, then confronts his nemesis, killing his gang. Sanchez gets away, but Bert follows the bandito to an abandoned mineshaft with Clementine trailing close behind.
In the mine, Bert has Sanchez cornered until a cave-in gives his enemy the upper-hand. Freeing herself from the rubble, Clementine shoots Sanchez at the last second. Bert returns Clem to the Ranch and says goodbye, riding off into the sunset.
Robens’ side-splittingly nonsensical plot embraces just about every Western cliché there ever was.
Casting Note: Directors are encouraged to cast women in male roles when needed.
Bert McGraw – Gunfighter at war with his inner demons.
Diego Sanchez – Charismatic bandito.
Clementine McGraw – Bold frontierswoman.
Cole Chatham – Perpetually nervous robber baron.
Rosarita Rivera – Noble prostitute with a fatalist streak.
Flapjack Hardaway – Young, loyal ranch hand and aspiring killer.
Iris Prewett – The West’s greatest blind gunfighter.
Billy James Sundance – Young, aspiring gunfighter sociopath.
Ding-Ding Macadangdang – Noble Filipino immigrant.
(Writer’s note: the name of “Ding-Ding Macadangdang” was suggested to the writer by his friend of Filipino ancestry. Please forward any complaints to Genemichael Barrera, 1517 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90028.)
Eudora Cummings – Veteran famous psychotic gunslinger.
Guillermo, Jose – Sanchez’s gang.
Mayor Picklings – Corrupt official.
Setting: Rio Hondo, California. The Old West, 1887.
Performance Royalties for AMATEUR and EDUCATIONAL Groups begin at $90.00 per performance for theaters under 150 seats, and rise depending on ticket prices and theater particulars. Please fill out an application for your personalized quote.
Performance Royalties for PROFESSIONAL Theaters will be quoted as a box office percentage, with a minimum guarantee based on ticket prices and theater particulars. Please fill out an application for your personalized quote.
An Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package must be purchased from Stage Rights as a part of your licensing agreement (see Materials).
Billing responsibilities, pertinent copyright information, and playwrights' biographies are available in the show rider that comes with your license agreement.
"Author Robens’ tools are fascination and delight." –Stage and Cinema
"Rio Hondo… deconstructs the traditions and tropes of movie Westerns with all the rigors of diligent scholarship and none of the pomposity." –Stage and Cinema
"This show is in fact so much fun that you might not notice how much it has to say, in a textual-analytical sort of way, about our collective desires, our shared concerns." –Stage and Cinema
"Affably goofy, un-PC fun." –LA Times
“Cast members playfully puncture the horse opera’s conventions, comically conjured up by playwright Bill Robens.” –Hollywood Progressive
“Ticket buyers know they’re in for a rollicking rough and ready time.” –Hollywood Progressive
An Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package must be purchased from Stage Rights as a part of your licensing agreement. Your materials will be sent to you two months prior to your opening date, unless other arrangements have been made in advance with your Stage Rights Licensing Representative.
The Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package for Rio Hondo consists of:
20 Production Scripts / $230.00 (shipping included)
Production Scripts for Plays are professionally printed and bound with a full-color cover.
You will have the option to purchase additional Production Scripts at a discounted rate when you complete your Licensing Agreement.
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Stage Manager’s Script – Printed on standard 8.5” x 11” 3-hole-punched paper, with the same page numbers and text as the Printed Production Scripts, but with more space on the page for notes and cues.