Two interlocking plays with a rural Texas theme are currently on tap at the Sam Bass Theatre in Round Rock. Based on a work written by James McLure in 1981, these twin plays are set in 1978, and still resonate with the immediate post-Vietnam zeitgeist.
The stage design for the plays was done by Barb Jernigan, whose work for the Georgetown Palace is well known. A recent effort there was the set design for The Adams Family. Here she gives us an outdoor porch setting for Laundry and Bourbon, the play featuring the female cast, and Lone Star, where their husbands are featured in a trashy environment. What better place for trash talk, which is what we get?
Ashley Kelashian sparkles in her portrayal of Hattie, the neighbour who loves to hang out and sip on bourbon to forget the terror of her children. “I went through hell today: I went shopping with my children,” she relates. “It’s like living with midgets – they’re always underfoot.”
Suffering through all this and Hattie’s penchant for watching episodes of Let’s Make a Deal that she has already seen and memorized is Elizabeth, the long-suffering wife of Roy. Jeannie Floyd unburdens her woes to Hattie about everything from Roy’s absence for the past few days, to the fact she is now pregnant. City slickers pay big money for a therapist, but Elizabeth doesn’t have to pay for her counselling.
Laundry and Bourbon becomes a cat fight as Hattie’s nemesis Amy Lee enters the picture. Played with righteous innocence by Sara deSoto, the interaction between the three of them is hilarious. “Hattie, how were you raised?”, asks Amy Lee. “With a stick,” she shoots back.
While all this is going on the menfolk are having a real fight in a yard behind a bar. Roy is just as wedded to his ’59 pink Thunderbird as he is to Elizabeth, and as a Vietnam veteran he pines for the old days. His loutish behaviour is pitched perfectly by Eric Richerson. While talking to his brother Ray, he imagines flying along the highway in the Thunderbird with actress Sandra Dee at his side. Ray may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but he one-ups Roy’s tales of sexual exploits with one of his own. Whether this leads to a Cain and Abel confrontation is a secret I will leave to those who come to see this play. Suffice it to say Michael Collier, who plays Ray, delivers a strong and convincing performance.
Rounding out the trio is the bumbling Cletis, known as Skeeter. Actor Benjamin Burt provides the catalyst for the confrontation between the brothers, and he offers the same degree of innocence his wife Amy Lee provides in the complimentary female play. All six actors deliver on the small-town vibe intended by McLure, who died in 2011.
A very fine production by directors John-Paul Guerra and Nick Wigg, I recommend catching this twin play before it ends Feb. 3, 2019.
Visit www.sambasstheatre.org for tickets.
Photos by C. Cunningham