Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Laundry & Bourbon" & Lone Star"

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note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Larry Stark

"Laundry & Bourbon"
"Lone Star"

by James McLure
Directed by Andrew Rhodes

Set Design by Ben Oldham
Lighting Design by Mollie McKenzie
Sound Design by Victoria Welch
Props Costumes by Deb Shea
Assistant Stage Manager Coral Ash
Stage Manager Emily Brown

"Laundry & Bourbon"

Elizabeth Caulder............Rachel Dyer
Hattie Dealing...........Alexandra Smith
Amy Lee Fullernoy........Aimee Parkhurst

"Lone Star"

Roy Caulder...........Dave Sanfacon
Ray Caulder.....Daniel Schuettinger
Cletius Fullernoy...Jonathan Overby

This pair of plays explain each other, document the difficulties of marriage, and the claustrophobic life of small towns like Maynard, Texas (West of Dallas, on the edge of the desert). And it is heartbreaking to watch a solid, solidly directed cast try to do this honest double-show, which depends heavily on "the laughter of recognition", before a scattered, insubstantial audience. There IS a sort of "critical mass" of audience necessary that makes theatrical comedy work, and The Makeshift Theatre Company is working on perhaps the worst week-end of the year: July 3, 5 and 6. If ever a show needed YOU this week-end, this one does.

Despite huge audiences for their "Family Theater" shows for children, The Makeshift Theatre Company in its adult plays is still a "fringie" group that has yet to find a following --- though what they've learned from dealing with kids is to be fast, loud enough to be heard, and above all honest. The first of these plays deals with the "happily ever after" marriage of high-school sweethearts, with two lifelong friends (Rachel Dyer and Alexandra Smith) facing realities --- and Aimee Parkhurst as their smugly successful classmate eager to visit, to spread bad news, and to gloat over her (relative) triumphs. Dyer's Elizabeth Caulder has secrets she finally shares with her best friend, while Smith's Hattie is boisterously confident that "If you told Elizabeth, then she'd have told me" anything really important in their lives. It seems that life in small-town America is like living in a glass house, and the only solace is a bit of bourbon and gossip, and the lovely desert sunsets.

"Lone Star" is the male mirror-image of that life and, in both, a 1959 pink Thunderbird convertible becomes a symbol of lost youth. David Sanfacon plays the husband of Elizabeth (the secretive one), on a two-day drunk, sharing his case of Lone Star beer with his slower brother Ray (Daniel Schuettinger), and nursing unhealed psychological wounds from "doing my time in Vit-Nam!" These two are brothers, and work together as smoothly though gruffly as the two best-friends in the first play.

And the class whipping-boy they both despise, Cletius "Skeeter" Fullernoy who inherited his dad's store and the Country Club membership that it bought, just happens to be husband to Amy Lee Fullernoy --- the uppity gossip in the earlier play. The significant differences in actions and attitudes here underscore the similarities in both plays, and the final line of the play (Well, at least we're not in Oklahoma!") crystalizes the make-the-best-of-it advice.

It's hard to pin down what makes the ensemble-playing here so hilarious yet so moving. Yes, Elizabeth and Roy Caulder "star" in their own plays, but their lives and their truths become apparent through their in-character conversations with life-long friends or family, and Director Andrew Rhodes has left them room both to take center-stage, or to lurk in corners waiting to drop devastating revelations.

And there are a couple of "star turns" here by Lighting Designer Mollie Mackenzie that shouldn't be missed: "Lone Star" is set in the back yard of a bar lit by stars, but the earlier play ends in a thoughtful sunset, and earlier a passing cloud the women comment upon. A simple dimming of the lights in both cases underlines the truths The Makeshift Theatre Company has found in these two plays.

So, if you love brilliant theatre:

( a k a larry stark)

"Laundry & Bourbon" & "Lone Star" (27 June - 6 July)
@ Durrell Hall, Cambridge YMCA, 820 Massachusetts Avenue, CAMBRIDGE MA
1 (617) 767-6504

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide