Three men—an ex-con, a disgraced cop, and the kid—hole up in a crummy motel room on the eve of a bank robbery. Each of them is desperate. Each is armed. Only one of them knows the other two, and he doesn't know enough.
Sounds like a classic setup, right? Playwright Cody Lucas clearly thinks so: he has the would-be bandidos in his Tres Bandidos spend quite a bit of time discussing the great movie westerns, from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to Unforgiven, with the winking implication that this situation echoes and plays on them.
Only it doesn't. Not really. For all the resonance of the situation and the familiarity of the character types, Lucas's new 80-minute one-act lacks something any decent western (or heist tale or love story) should have: dramatic tension. Since a crucial piece of information is withheld from the audience—I mean, not even hinted at—until the final moments, we can't know what the stakes are, much less wonder what's going to happen if the information comes out. Consequently, the interactions among our three antiheroes carry no charge. That conversation about great westerns? So much dead time. Ditto the poker game and the inevitable backstory speeches. Then, when the revelation finally occurs, the trio's reaction makes more noise than sense.
Under the circumstances there's nothing to be done short of a rewrite (hopefully with more attention paid to, say, The Petrified Forest or The Desperate Hours than to Tombstone). But, codirected by Cordie Nelson and Jack Schultz, with a cast consisting of Joe Lino, Guy Wicke, and the playwright, this Agency Theater Collective production has some nice moments. And that crummy motel room, designed by Chas Mathieu, is truly, perfectly check-under-the-bed awful. v