note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark
Set Design by Dave Sheppard
Lightiing Design by Kathy Campbell
Sound Design by Dave Sheppard
Costume Design by Dave Sheppard
Producer Dave Sheppard
Elzabeth Caulder......Leigh Berry
Hattie Dealing..........Shana Dirik
Amy Lee Fullerton.....Karen Orr
Roy Caulder.......................Tom Berry
Ray Caulder.....................Daniel Loya
Cletis Fullernoy.....J. Mark Baumhardt
There is something almost automatically funny about the styles of speech and accents found in the American South --- and that obviously includes West Texas. They call to mind ingrown small-town coziness, broad brash let-it-all-hang-out brutal honesty, lip-service morality, down-and-dirty gossip, and irrational class distinctions. And these two James McClure plays add to that mix serious distinctions between men's and women's lives lived in such societies. McClure's mirror-image one-acts are excellently served in the Acme Theater production out in Maynard Mass, where everyone is so magnificently, hilariously funny that whenever sincere human pain surfaces it cuts like a clean, surgical scalpel. This is an excellent show.
"Laundry And Bourbon" opens the evening with women's lives, and begins and ends with the worried wife (Leigh Berry) staring plaintively at the lonely road that may or may not bring her husband home from a three-day binge in town. But between those two tableaux she and her life-long best-friend (Shana Dirik) let their hair down, and react to the catty appearance of a snooty neighbor (Karen Orr) bursting to reveal what she knows is the husband's debaucheries. They may all be lower-class, and all of them end up with a little more bourbon than usual, but never let it be said that a cat-fight cannot be engaged without a loss of dignity!
In the second play, in town the drifting husband (Tom Berry) begins by howling at the moon and, after downing about a dozen Lone Stars ("the national beer of Texas") concludes philosophically that "Well, at least I ain't in Oklahoma!" He is, though home for two years, blaming most of his disgruntlements on the time he served in 'Nam, but he's the sort who, after finally barfing, washes the ugly taste away with --- another mouthful of Lone Star. He browbeats his perhaps half-wit younger brother (Daniel Loya) and displays his instant dislike (I don't like your shoes!) of the conformist goody-goody (J. Mark Baumhardt) who envies his uncompromising freedom.
The "character" that really unites these two stories is the pink Thunderbird convertible that figured in the dates and double-dates that cemented all these friendships since high school.. Is it the offstage wreck of that car, or the unexpected pregnancy of the wife that symbolizes the end of youth for this intertwined, separate couple?
The Acme Theatre had different directors for each play --- J. Mark Baumhardt for "Laundry & Bourbon" Dave Sheppard for "Lone Star" --- but the approach in each case was identical: Avoid wherever possible surface shtick, treat every one of these characters as a human being, and let the lines themselves provide all the laughs. J. Mark Baumhardt and Karen Orr played the only characters designed to be laughed At --- by fellow Texans as well as by the audience --- and the "second bananas" Shana Dirik and Daniel Loya took every opportunity to exercize flawless comic timing, playing the audience in each case like a well-tuned violin.
The married pair here each break out of the comedy mode. Each one admits, despite their difficulties, to being their own first, life-long loves. And it may be an advantage that the Berry's happen to be young and married to each other. They are certainly in full command of the stage, their complicated characters and themselves every step of the way, taking centerstage or offering it to others as required.
The final result out in Maynard is a warmly touching thick slice of real life --- but Ghod, these Texans are funny!