Richardson Theatre Centre
Director - Rachael Lindley
Stage Managers - Emma McLaughlan, Amberlee Clark
Tech Director - Christopher Dean
Set Design - Chris Dean
Sound Design - Rachael Lindley
Props - Emma McLauchlan and Amberlee Clark
Costumes - Rachael Lindley
CAST - Laundry and Bourbon
Amy Lee Fullernoy - Lise Alexander
Elizabeth Caulder - Laura Warner
Leigh Wyatt Moore - Leigh Wyatt Moore
CAST - Lonestar
Ray Caulder - Chris Dean
Roy Caulder - Marcus Ridner
Cletis Fullorny - Greg Phillips
Reviewed Performance 8/12/2012
Reviewed by Danny Macchietto, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Richardson Theatre Centre's production of Laundry and Bourbon promises a lot to the audience. It is a one-hour, pitch-perfect, Texas yarn that captivates your attention with authentic and entertaining performances from Lis Alexander, Laura Warner, and Leigh Wyatt Moore.
The promise is not the execution of the performance itself, led with competent and assured direction by Rachel Lindley, but of great things to come from the second James McClure scripted one-act of the evening, Lonestar. Sadly, the promise is left un-fulfilled; the result an uneven double bill of one fully realized vision and another that simply pales in comparison. Lonestar is not without its own rusty, Texas charm, also directed by Rachel Lindley.
Laundry and Bourbon was conceived by McClure as a companion piece to Lonestar, each sharing the common link of a 1959 pink Thunderbird convertible and two married couples. In Laundry and Bourbon you get the women's story, Lonestar you get the men's. As Lonestar begins, you already know Vietnam War veteran Roy Caulder so well from the anecdotes the women share in Laundry and Bourbon. Even as the women of Laundry and Bourbon are well out of sight, the audience continues to receive revelations and secrets of them in Lonestar.
Laura Warner is at the center of Laundry and Bourbon as Elizabeth Caulder. She has that earthy, pragmatic presence that suggests the hard-worn life with just a glance. Minute after minute, her natural portrayal of Elizabeth gravitates the audience to reality in between the laughs to what is essentially a Texas comedy.
Most of the laughs are fueled by Leigh Wyatt Moore as Hattie Dealing. Moore's creates a generous comic performance that is well-modulated from beginning to end; whether expounding on the riches of Let's Make a Deal, hilariously disciplining her three rambunctious kids over the telephone or whining about the Bridge Club's introduction to Mahjong, she is consistently engaging.
Lise Alexander has an all too brief appearance as Amy Lee Fullernoy. It is a role that could have easily run off the rails as a larger than life caricature but Ms. Alexander knows just how much to rein it in and she does not falter.
Laundry and Bourbon ends on a nostalgic note without being corny or too emphasized. Some of the lines that the actors spout are a marvel to the ear ("He taught me my body", "He's the last wild thing left around here"). In the hands of the wrong director and performances, such meaning would be lost, but not here. The romantic and wistful intentions of McClure's Texas poetry are clearly felt.
Lonestar is cast well with the likes of Marcus Rider as Roy Caulder, Elizabeth's husband, and Chris Dean as Ray Caulder, Roy's younger brother, but the play never finds the right tone for McClure's jokey but brooding lament of a Vietnam War veteran still struggling to re-adapt to civilian life.
Some of this issue is due to the level of drunkenness that is portrayed on stage. Roy opens the play to the announcement of his 25th beer of the evening. Then he announces his 26th beer. The man may be drunk, but he can still count, by golly. This suggests that he is an old pro, capable of lucid thoughts while drinking anyone under the table. Mr. Long, confident and assured as his performance is, concerns himself so much with the drunken walk and the soused talking, that the affectation he brings to the character becomes a distraction: too much acting and not enough being.
Chris Dean as the younger brother has excellent chemistry with Mr. Long. He exudes an appropriately playful and boyish charm to his role, ever happy to be the sidekick to his alcoholic brother. A crude analogy of what a Baby Ruth candy bar really looks like is handled with the right aplomb and comic timing so that the audience laughs, instead of gags. Such candid moments aren't always as successful; there are several topics where there is much emphasis on the vulgarity, and the intended innocence of the exchange is left to wallow.
It is a bit jarring to know that Rachel Lindley is the same director of Laundry and Bourbon, as Lonestar lacks the striking polish of the former. Cletis, played by Greg Philips, is a character meant to polarize the others with his nerdy eccentricities, but his character saunters in as if from the play next door and takes the audience hostage. Mr. Phillips is fully committed to the role and I would welcome his enthusiasm in countless other productions but Ms. Lindley never truly gives the play a reason for this character to coexist in the same universe as Ray and Roy. If Mr. Phillips is giving 110%, I would have settled for 50.
There is also a matter of the bottles that are drunk throughout the show. It is obvious early on that the actors are a bit cautious to avoid accidentally breaking any bottles on stage. The handling of the beer drinking is very polite and respectful to the set and stage surfaces' too polite, given the fact that the term "polite" should not even exist when one is critiquing Lonestar. It flummoxes me that beer cans are not used instead of breakable bottles. You can smash a can easily - drop it and kick it on the floor without a care in the world. I wanted to see Ray and Roy unafraid to be unclean, that's the Lonestar American way.
Chris Dean pulls triple duty for this production as not only an actor but as set designer and Technical Director to Richardson Theatre Centre. His structural design is economical and efficient, incorporating a moveable fence line that shields the two sets one at a time. Both visuals are faithful to the authenticity of the character's environment, especially Lonestar. The barrage of clutter is ornate, sloppy and looks lived in. I only wish that the characters themselves would fully allow themselves to live in the world Dearden created.
LAUNDRY AND BOURBON & LONESTAR
Richardson Centre Theatre
2701 N. Custer Pkwy, Ste. 911, Richardson, TX 75080
Runs through September 2nd
These plays contain adult language.
Thursdays at 7:30 pm
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm
Sunday Matinees at 2:00 pm
Tickets are $22.00 for Friday and Saturday and $20.00 for Thursday and Sunday.
For tickets call 972-699-1130, and for more information go to www.richardsontheatrecentre.net.