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Two One-Act Plays Feature Strong Acting

“Laundry and Bourbon” and “Lone Star” Valley Repertory Theatre, Friday, March 28

Think “Greater Tuna” times two. James McClure’s matched pair of one-act plays, “Laundry and Bourbon” and “Lone Star” is another in the genre of small-town Texas low-life comedies, a genre which certainly has its pleasures.

The good people of Maynard, Texas, are natural comic material, especially when they are drinking. The first short play, “Laundry and Bourbon,” features three women of the town; the second three men.

These are great plays for actors, who get to put on their broadest redneck accents and wallow in the hard-drinking antics of their characters. The Valley Rep’s version, directed by Jodine Watson, features several enjoyable performances.

In the first play, Linda Long and Linn Johnson are believable and effective as a pair of wives sitting on the porch, folding laundry and wondering what their husbands are up to. Johnson is deliciously earthy and low-life, always trying to stir up a little trouble and gossip. She is the embodiment of a certain small-town type, who is not terribly happy and isn’t sure she wants anyone else to be happy either.

Long is the more sympathetic (and more sober) character, a young wife whose husband is off on a bender. Long has an outstanding, almost musical, speaking voice, which she uses to convey many shades of meaning.

Kathie Doyle-Lipe comes in later in the act to play a country-club wife who is scorned by Johnson’s character. Doyle-Lipe’s performance is a bit over-the-top and shrieking, but she gives the play the jolt of comic energy that carries to the finale.

The second play, “Lone Star,” is not quite as effective, but it too features some strong performances. Bruce Arnold is the play’s center, as a disillusioned Vietnam vet trying to make sense of his life and his marriage through the magic of Lone Star beer. He is believable and effective throughout.

Ron Varela is his dim-bulb of a brother, and Varela does a fine job of making him both goofy and sympathetic.

The only off-note is the performance of John Brooks as a stereotypical nerd. Brooks seemed hesitant, unsure of himself, and more than a bit whiny.

The only other unfortunate aspect of the evening was the size of the audience. There were only 15 people there for opening night, and some of them left at intermission. A comedy, especially, requires a certain critical mass of laughter and response, and this was hardly enough to reach it.

Even worse, the turnout doesn’t bode well for the future of the Valley Rep. The theater is already in serious financial trouble; a poor turnout for this play may well kill this six-year-old community theater. All in all, it was a depressing sub-text for what was mostly a funny evening of theater.

, DataTimes MEMO: “Lone Star” and “Laundry and Bourbon” continues through April 12, call 927-6878 for reservations.

“Lone Star” and “Laundry and Bourbon” continues through April 12, call 927-6878 for reservations.

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