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

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note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark

"Laundry & Bourbon"
"Lone Star"

by James McClure
directed by Jonathan English

Set Design by Jonathan English
Lighting Design by Carl Doebler
Costume Design by Alan Slattery
Sound Design by Carl Doebler
Production Supervisor Amy Young
Stage Manager Carl Doebler

"Laundry & Bourbon"

Elizabeth..............................Tori Davis
Hattie..........................Rebecca Mobley
Amy Lee.........Kaherine E. Ball Bassick

"Lone Star"

Roy............Bruce-Robert Serafin
Ray..........................Tom Lawlor
Cletis....................Michael Layne

The situation is this: It's Maynard, Texas, about 1974, and the women in one case --- the men in the other --- from three different marriages are hanging out, gossiping, confiding, commiserating, and jest plain settin around with one another --- the girls most of the afternoon, the boys most of the night. Maynard's a dead-end town on the edge of a desert, the kinda place there's allus somethin happenin, 'cept nothin seems to change much. What changes, though, is the depth of insight and understanding that these often very funny, often very desperate, always overly-familiar people learn about one another, and share with their audience.

Now it ain't just since the last election that a Texas accent brings out the broadest, funniest, most outrageous hilarity the country has produced. There is such a thing as "Texas crude" after all. The Lone Star of the title stands for a lot of things --- for what refuses to admit is America's second-largest state --- for a faint nugget of hope to be wished on --- and for the bottled brew that, at least for a while, makes disappointment bearable.

But in a sense, since James McClure's people all seem to revolve about it in so many ways, the lone star of the play could be that pink 1959 convertible that Roy (Bruce-Robert Serafin), back with ugly memories from Nam, has driven into the ground yet cannot bear to part with. For everyone it's in the center of bright memories of being young and eager for the joys of life that no one expected to lead to dead-end consequences.

Roy's wife Elizabeth (Tori Davis) can almost admit it was the car he drove made her fall in love at first sight, while her best-friend Hattie (Rebecca Mobley), who remembers drive-in double-dates with the love of her life (who jilted her), thinks Roy will never grow into responsibilities until he can give up that gleaming chariot. For Roy's kid brother Ray (Tom Lawlor) and their envious friend Cletis (Michael Layne) it's the symbol of devil-may-care youthful freedom they can never hope to experience --- unless Roy lends them the keys.

In truth, Director Jonathan English has found all the prickly undertones of painful small-town lives in McClure's scripts, but his cast has found all the riotously over-the-top self-satire and fun that come with that West Texas accent. When the girls soak up bourbon-and-coke highballs through an afternoon folding laundry --- with a visit from Cletis' snooty wife Amy Lee (Katherine E. Ball Bassick) --- the best-friends let down their hair, and end up hair-pulling for a time too. It's their unabashed confidences and memories set the backgrounds that make the brawling, sprawling trio of boys resonate with insights.

And "boys" and "girls" are really the right words here. Not just in their ribald verbal sparring, tight-mouthed confessions and narrow horizons, these unwilling adolescents, despite half a dozen years of marriage, at least in their minds are still wistfully double-dating in that pink 1959 convertible they will never outgrow.

So seek out the new Bates Art Center (731 Harrison Avenue, BOSTON), where tears of insight and tears of uncontrolled laughter intermingle. It's worth seeking out. Love,

"Lone Star" and "Laundry and Bourbon" (6 - 30 September)
Bates Art Center, 731 Harrison Avenue, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 842-7927

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide