by Shirley Lorraine
A Slice of Life in a Texas Small Town
The Elite Theatre Company in Channel Islands opens their 2023 season with two one-act plays, Laundry and Bourbon, and Lone Star, both by James McClure. Billed as comedies, the two are connected only marginally by character references, punctuated by light chuckles.
Laundry and Bourbon takes the audience into the small town of Maynard, Texas where Elizabeth (Lea Roman) and her friend Hattie (Jolyn Johnson) enjoy Bourbon and coke in the afternoon and air their inner dirty laundry while attempting to fold actual laundry. Both married right out of high school, they find that the memories of what was carried them farther than the realities of their lives now. They are later joined by Amy Lee (Maddie Boyd), now a devout Baptist with a husband, Cletis, who runs a successful furniture store. All three are gossipy, biting and banter with bitterness over the state of their current lives. No one really seems happy as the author explores many intricacies that can accompany the slow erosion of relationships and the phenomenon of small town life where everyone seems to know or be involved in everyone else’s business.
All three give solid performances with a range of sometimes priceless facial expressions. The verbal pace is rapid, twangy and seems to echo bouncing off the stark walls of the minimalist set. As a result, I found many lines absorbed under the weight of those elements and moving on before the audience could catch up. I felt some opportunities for real laughter were lost as the actors hurried on to the next revelation.
The second act, Lone Star, gives the menfolk a place to air their woes. And air they do. Elizabeth’s husband, Roy (Scott Blanchard) is a former jock who, having survived the Vietnam war, now is a bitter drunk with PTSD. He is joined out behind Angels, the town bar, by his younger brother, Ray (Patrick T. Rogers) who is seemingly content to stay in the background of his brother’s former fame and who provides the balance of reason as Roy storms about. The third character is Cletis (Asher Mitchell), husband to Amy Lee, the only one of the three who appears to have made any progress in his life.
All three actors handle the material to the fullest. Action is fierce, emotions are at their peaks and the actors’ commitment to their roles is evident.
Director Kimberly Demmary certainly had her hands full with this accomplished cast and challenging material. All six actors seem to have been given a free hand to emote wildly and loudly, throw things around and generally chew up the stage with their inner angst. The plays were an evening well spent if you find that witnessing the emotional disintegration of others is entertaining.
The Elite’s season will continue with a variety of lesser known offerings including works on the South Stage. Now in its 10th year at the current location, and celebrating 29 years of existence, the Elite has grown in scope while retaining its intimate feel. www.TheElite.org.