PUTNEY -- Sarah Ruhl's "Late, A Cowboy Song" inhabits opposing worlds at the same time -- it is perfectly real and natural at the same time it is surreal and dreamlike; it is by turns heartrending and sharply witty.

The artful way Ruhl brings these differing worlds together makes "Late, A Cowboy Song" so fascinating and engaging, explains Ben Stockman, who directs the Apron Theater Company production of the play.

"I read the script two years ago and I totally loved it," said Stockman. "This is the kind of material I truly wanted to be directing."

"Late, A Cowboy Sing," presented by Apron Theater Company and the Next Stage Arts Project continue April 3-5 at 8 p.m., at Next Stage, 15 Kimball Hill.

"Late, A Cowboy Song" is the first production of Apron's second season as Next Stage's "theater-company-in-residence" and a chance to experience the work of Tony Award-winning MacArthur Fellow Sarah Ruhl.

"I love the writing," said Stockman. "She's poetic, and she allows you access to the characters in a way that kind of defies description. She lets you right into their souls."

In "Late, A Cowboy Song," the souls in question start with Mary Smith, a young woman who keeps her journal locked, can only find escape from an oppressively endless string of holidays (and her unemployed boyfriend Crick) by going out for soup with a lady cowboy named Red. But when Mary becomes pregnant and wants to name the child Blue, Crick decides that Red is a bad influence on his newly forming family.


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"It's about identity ...completely," said Stockman. "It's about this woman who has formed her identity through her relationship with this person. It shows her exploring the possibilities of who she really could be."

And it does so through the artful ways Ruhl straddles reality and surreality the way the female cowboy Red straddles a horse.

"It feels almost unnervingly natural and real in terms of these personal relationships and how they speak, but it also feels very surreal and dreamlike," said Stockman. "I would call it a drama, with some dark comedy laced in. ... It's definitely not drama as high drama. It's tender in a dramatic way and in an open-wound sort of way."

The Apron Theater production of "Late, A Cowboy Song" stars Grace Nowakoski as Mary, Jeff Diteman as Crick and Anne-Marie White as Red.

Tickets are $12. Reservations are welcome at 802-387-0071. Tickets may also be purchased at www.nextstagearts.org.

For more information call or e-mail nextstagearts@gmail.com

The Apron Theater Company was founded by Karla Baldwin, Hallie Flower and Carrie Kidd. Next Stage Arts Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to revitalizing Putney's cultural and economic village center through the programming, development and operation of Next Stage. Information about events, renovation plans and theater enhancements, and opportunities for support are available at www .nextstagearts.org.