Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Geography of a Horse Dreamer is one of many plays in which Shepard makes use of the conventions of genre fiction and their cinematic counterparts. In Geography of a Horse Dreamer the plot and the characters are largely drawn from the crime thriller, while the climactic rescue of Cody is straight from the Western. The Tooth of Crime (pr. 1972, pb. 1974), Shepard’s first play to receive major critical acclaim, is a verbal duel between an aging rock star and his challenger; this tour de force incorporates many elements of the classic Western showdown, but it also features a futuristic setting and other trappings of science fiction. An earlier play, The Unseen Hand (pr., pb. 1969), brings together an improbably named alien, Willie, and the outlaw Morphan brothers, resurrected from the Old West’s Jameses and Daltons. In Back Bog Beast Bait (pr., pb. 1971), a pair of bounty hunters tangle with the occult, another of Shepard’s favorite sources for motifs. Suicide in B Flat (pr. 1976, pb. 1979) could be described as an off-the-rails police procedural that draws on occult or horror fiction and the espionage genre.

Shepard’s use of these popular genres is distinctive and many-sided. They provide a loose structure that permits him to pursue dreamlike associations without lapsing into incoherence. Often, as in Geography of a Horse Dreamer, they create a mood of humorous incongruity, evidence that...

(The entire section is 481 words.)