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A CurtainUp Review
Lone Star and Laundry & Bourbon

I was hoping to see a 1959 pink Thunderbird come over that hill. — Elizabeth
Lone Star
Mike Schraeder as Roy (Photo: Julie Ann Arbiter)
Lone Star , a one-act comedy by the late James McLure (1951 - 2011) is making a limited return visit to New York courtesy of the Contemporary Theatre of Dallas. It has been thirty-five years since the rowdy, funny play first appeared in a double bill on Broadway, at that time with another McLure opus Pvt. Wars .

Although the plays received enthusiastic reviews, McLure's paired plays about rural Texans in 1974 failed to draw enough ticket-buyers to survive beyond two months. Since then, Lone Star, along with another of his one-act-ers Laundry & Bourbon, has been making the rounds of regional theaters, with those in Texas notably receptive. New Jersey got on board in 1980, when Lone Star and Laundry & Bourbon, under the umbrella title 1959 Pink Thunderbird , was presented at the McCarter Theatre.

It won't be easy, but you should make an effort to survive the tedium of the curtain-raiser Laundry & Bourbon . In it, Elizabeth (Marianne Galloway) is not having a good day. The AC is on the fritz and it's beastly hot on her front porch where she is attempting to make some headway with a huge basketful of laundry ready for folding. She is, however, depressed because her husband Roy, an unsettled Vietnam veteran has been A.O.L. from their home for two days along with his 1959 Pink Thunderbird.

Soon enough her closest friend Hattie (Sue Loncar) arrives to shoot the breeze, enjoy a glass of bourbon and feel free from caring for her three raucous children. Also joining them is babbling Baptist, uppity country-club member Amy Lee (Marisa Diotalevi) who shows up to do more than sell raffle tickets. The gals fill up time catching up with local gossip, reminiscing about their past, and griping mostly about the men they married (and whom we will meet in the second play Lone Star ).

Amy Lee is happy to be the deliverer of crushing news to Elizabeth but also to Hattie. Spoiler alert. It seems that Mahjong has replaced bridge as the preferred game for the local ladies. Eventually the women find solace, after a few more rounds of bourbon. It won't spoil anything to report that they share with each other their disappointments in love and marriage, presumably solidifying their relationships. Time is made amidst this for a hair-pulling brawl that actually comes close to relieving the prevailing torpor.

The acting by Galloway and Diotalevi could charitably be called screaming except when it diminishes. L & B nevertheless, clears the path for the more action-invigorated revelations in Lone Star , which thankfully benefits from the same director, Cynthia Hestand's more focused vision. According to the press release, director Hestand "collaborated with the late playwright on her interpretation of his work." Curiously and unforgivably, the Louisiana-born playwright was not given a program bio, yet his impressive credits include the full-length The Day They Shot John Lennon among many one-act plays, TV and movie credits that often stressed his Southern roots.

In Lone Star brothers Ray (Joey Ogelesby) and Roy (Mike Schraeder) are spending a typical beer-guzzling Friday night at the local bar. Plenty drunk but getting a breather under the stars outside the barroom, Roy (Mike Schraeder) is getting his kicks picking on his light-weight brained little brother Ray (Joey Oglesby) while "Playing Vietnam," arguing about how and what kind of candy bars should be eaten either before during or after drinking beer, rehashing their misspent youth growing up in Maynard, Texas, and more importantly remembering double dating in Roy's treasured 1959 Pink Thunderbird. They are anything but pleased when they are joined by dorky and thoroughly disliked Cletus (Ken Orman), who is rightfully afraid to tell Roy some really bad news. He is the husband of Amy Lee and resented because he has a successful business in town.

McLure's vision of rural folk doing what they are inclined to do best is vivid and even touching, made more so by the realistic interaction between Oglesby's feckless, sometimes clueless Ray and Schraeder's blathering, battle-scarred Roy. Orman is very fine as the almost comical but never quite a joke Cletus. This leaves me to think that had L & B been cast better, McClure's voice in these two plays about the trysts, temperaments and tribulations of good ol' gals and guys would have had a better chance of being welcomed back.

Rodney Dobb's commendably evocative but also cumbersome scenic design requires the stage hands to turn the set completely around on the turntable during intermission. Apparently it was as easy for them to turn the set around as it was for me to turn from my displeasure with the first play to my pleasure with the second.

Lone Star & Laundry & Bourbon
By James McLure
Directed by Cynthia Hestand

Laundry & Bourbon Cast: Sue Loncar (Hattie), Marianne Galloway (Elizabeth), Marisa Diotalevi (Amy Lee)
Lone Star Cast: Joey Oblesby (Ray), Mike Schraeder (Roy), Ken Orman (Cletus)
Scenic Design: Rodney Dobbs
Lighting Design: Jonathan Felt
Costume Design: Sue Loncar
Sound Design: Rich Frolich
Props Design: Jen Gilson-Gilliam
Producing Artistic Director: Sue Loncar
Managing Director: Emily Jo Piepenbrink
Production Stage Manager: Zoelyn Copeland
Assistant Stage Manager: Katie Elder
Running Time: two hours including intermission
Clurman Theatre, 410 W. 42nd Street
Performances: Tuesday through Friday at 8 pm; Wednesday at 2 pm; Saturday at 2 pm and 8 pm; and Sunday at 3 pm.
From 07/05/14 Opened 07/10/14 Ends 07/26/14
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 07/09/14
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