Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Alliance Theatre Lab: Laundry&Bourbon and Lone Star (reviews)

laundrybourbonlonestarThe Alliance Theatre Lab opened its productions of James McLure’s  one-acts Laundry & Bourbon and Lone Star at the Main Street Playhouse on June 6th, 2014.
Laundry & Bourbon, conceived as a companion piece to precede Lone Star, centers on the comedic discontent and gossip of three small-town wives whose marriages have fallen short of expectations.
Lone Star is a hilarious study of a pair of Texas “good ole boys” on a Saturday night at a local bar. Roy, a brawny former high school hero, is back in town after a tour in Vietnam and seeks to reestablish his position in the town. Joined by his younger brother, Ray, Roy tells his military tales and amorous exploits. Among all though, Roy cherishers his country, his wife, and his 1959 Thunderbird. The underpinnings of Roy's world however begin to collapse as secrets are unveiled.
Adalberto Acevedo directed Lone Star with a cast that included Kristian Bikic , Daniel Nieves, and Juan Gamero.  Juan Carlos Besares directed Laundry & Bourbon featuring  Andrea Bovino, Gladys Ramirez and Breeza Zeller
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Obviously, these are comedies. Copious laughter embraces Alliance Theatre Lab’s production of James McLure’s related one-act plays, Laundry & Bourbon and Lone Star.
Bovino is perfectly adequate and Ramirez ..does a solid job as the wistful abandoned wife.
But it’s Zeller who shines brightest. Yes, she has the best-written part of the entire show with more than her share of witty rejoinders. But her comic timing is craftsman-perfect and her reveries about her lost love are quietly affecting.
Nieves has the strongest part in Lone Star, but McLure really only gives him a couple of emotions to play and Nieves doesn’t add any others, although he certainly delivers what’s written with brio and energy. Bikic is adept at being the straight man and he has a daffy way with such situations as when Roy is about to hit him with a two-by-four and Ray says with complete sincerity, “Please don’t kill me. If you kill me, I don’t know what I’ll do.” Gamero was so mush-mouthed that most of his dialogue was unintelligible.
Praise is due to Howard Ferré whose choice of 1960s country-rock standards playing behind the scenes is absolutely dead perfect, not just for the steel guitar sound but for the choice resonating lyrics of The Eagles and others.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Alliance Theatre Lab has chosen the plays for its start-of-summer production at the Main Street Playhouse in Miami Lakes. Comedies with dark undertones, the pieces provide three juicy roles for women (in Laundry and Bourbon), three more for men ( Lone Star). Directors Adalberto J. Acevedo and Juan Carlos Besares mine both scripts for lots of laughs, though if the production were judged as an artistic battle of the sexes, the gals would be declared the winners by a mile.
Laundry and Bourbon comes first, and it has to because of a plot point involving Roy’s chick-magnet car. Too bad, since it’s a better and funnier play.
Set on a scorching 1975 day in tiny Maynard, Texas, Laundry and Bourbon is a study in the compromises, sacrifices and little pleasures of small-town life for a trio of women…  As the tension cranks up between Bovino’s snooty gal and Zeller’s opinionated one, the play and Zeller — never better than in Laundry and Bourbon — just get more hilarious.
Though it’s funny, Lone Star is a darker play than Laundry and Bourbon, literally because it’s set at nighttime (lighting designer Howard Ferré conjures scorching sun for the gals, shadowy night for the guys) and thematically because the men are not-so-good-ol’-boys.
Roy, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, tries to keep his demons at bay with booze and a series of flings. Nieves plays him as a crude bully nostalgic for the days when he was the dreamiest thing in Maynard. Bikic’s long-suffering Ray is more likeable until he makes an out-of-the-blue confession. As Cletis, Gamero is a sweaty sight gag.
Between the laughs, Lone Star and Laundry and Bourbon are laced with sexism... You’d like to think we’ve come a long way since McLure wrote the plays, but check your Facebook news feed and you’ll see we haven’t. Nonetheless, the world McLure evokes in the one-acts is completely believable in terms of time, place and character. And Zeller’s performance is as deftly funny as comedic acting gets.
John Thomason reviewed for The Miami New Times:
These one-acts might feel as inseparable as a Lohan and a police report, but only one of them is particularly good. Taken together, this yin-and-yang diptych is half-masterpiece, half-slog.
The Alliance's Laundry and Bourbon is an exemplary piece of theater. If Ramirez gamely navigates through a role and a dialect that are not completely in her wheelhouse, the show is carried by a career-best performance from Zeller. Granted, she has the best lines: Her son "doesn't have the sense God gave a screwdriver," and a neighbor with six kids "does not have children; she drops litters." But it's the zest for life with which she imbues her character that spreads to the rest of the cast and enlivens McLure's writing.
There is much pleasure in simply hearing Zeller pronounce words in a uniquely impenetrable Texas drawl — "God" isn't the televangelist's "Gawd" so much as "Goad" — and her comic timing in delivering McLure's funniest gems is unmatched.
Lone Star is, frankly, a drag — a vintage car whose engine sputters and sputters but doesn't quite start. Part of the problem is that Gamero hasn't yet mastered his small part, rushing through poorly enunciated lines that left many members of the opening-night audience scratching their heads. Likewise, Nieves lacks the nuance that Zeller provided her character in the first act. He performs with too much control for a character with PTSD and an overdose of alcohol in his system; he acts less drunk, not more drunk, the more Lone Star he imbibes.
Even when he threatens other characters with violence, the tone remains flatly lighthearted, lacking a sense of imminent danger. This might have been a deliberate decision from directors Acevedo and Juan Carlos Besares. If so, it does a disservice to the writing, because the sparks of unpredictability and intensity that made Laundry and Bourbon so compelling are absent from Lone Star.
More likely, Lone Star is simply a weaker script, with characters who are more psychologically shallow and trite.
The Alliance Theatre Lab productions of James McLure’s  one-acts Laundry & Bourbon and Lone Star play at the Main Street Playhouse through June 22, 2014.

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