James McLure (1952-2011) was a southern playwright whose works have become staples of Southern and Western schools and theatre companies. He wrote about small-towns, the plight of Vietnam veterans, and the consequences of celebrity and celebrity gossip. Two Way Street Productions' mounting of "Laundry & Bourbon" and "Lone Star," two one-act comedies written by McLure in 1979, brings all these themes together in an intense and funny production.
Why would you go see a dated (VHS tapes, references to Mah Jongg and old game shows, the Vietnam quagmire) 35-year old show? First, because seeing talent practice their craft is always a good reason to see a small show in Hollywood. McLure's shows are broad character studies, and each of the six actors here get to show their chops.
Second, because the themes explored in this show (small-towns, vets, gossip) are timeless. Substitute "Desert Storm" for Vietnam and "Honey Boo Boo" for "Let's Make a Deal" and the show is as fresh as if written today.
The young actresses in "Laundry & Bourbon" are fresh -- and funny. Claudia Doumit (Elizabeth, the long-suffering still-in-love wife of a battle-scarred vet), Malin Sandberg (Hattie, her outrageous best friend and the exasperated mother of three out-of-control young-uns) and Alice O'Conner (Amy Lee, the prim-and-proper social-climbing Baptist third wheel) make up a well-balanced trio.
Director Bonnie McNeil keeps the humor rooted in reality so the action (and there is lots of action) never tips over into cartoonishness. The actresses were so believable as small-town Texas friends that I was surprised to learn from the playbill, which I read during intermission, that the actresses were all born and raised in foreign countries (Australia, Sweden, and Canada, respectively). This is a tribute to their talent and the natural rhythm of McLure's dialogue.
"Lone Star," the second act, presents that battle-scarred vet, his brother, and the husband of that Baptist third wheel. Douglas Bennet portrays Ray (the vet) as a complex tangle -- wild, yet responsible, out-of-control, yet reasonable -- with depth and physicality. His arm-pumping is both a means of self-expression and a nervous tic. John Linton is spot-on as brother Roy (a name attributed to their father's sense of humor). Resigned and resentful in his role as little brother, Roy's personal confessions bring rage and transformation to the fore. Tom Stanczyk is Cletus (Amy Lee's husband). He is both buffoon and deus ex machina for some surprising revelations about love both familial and automotive. (SPOILER ALERT: there is a seventh character.)
Director Tim McNeil keeps the acting and action natural, not easy when wrangling a drunk, a man-child, and a daddy's boy on a small stage. Together, "Lone Star" and "Laundry & Bourbon" take us deep into the psyches of people we know and want to know more about.
Design and technical crafts are top-notch, as befits a production at the Stella Adler school.
Friday & Saturdays at 8pm through December 7th.
STELLA ADLER - STUDIO C
6773 Hollywood Blvd., 2nd Floor, Hollywood, CA. 90026
General Public Admission $20.00 / $10.00 Students & Seniors
Reserve ONLINE at: http://twowaystreet.bpt.me
or call 323.790.6745
Photographer: Bryan Wiggle
Pic 1: LAUNDRY AND BOURBON - (Left to Right): Alice O'Connor, Malin Sandberg, Claudia Doumit
Pic 2: LAUNDRY AND BOURBON - (Left to Right): Claudia Doumit, Malin Sandberg
Pic 3: LONE STAR - (Left to Right): Douglas Bennett, John Linton, Tom Stanczyk
Pic 4: LONE STAR - (Left to Right): Douglas Bennett, John Linton
Pic 4: LAUNDRY AND BOURBON - (Left to Right): Claudia Doumit, Malin Sandberg