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A Fine Texas Two-Step Production
Contemporary Theatre hits the mark with McLure’s one-act plays

By Dena Hill,  Special Contributor

Brothers Ray (Todd Terry) and Vietnam veteran Roy (Mark Nutter) talk about present hopes and past conquests in Contemporary Theater of Dallas’s production of Lone Star.  
 
Lone Star
and Laundry and Bourbon, a pair of one-act plays by SMU graduate James McLure set in the late 1970s, hold up remarkably well in the new millennium. The two plays, which present the male and female sides of the same history, only seem truer and funnier as time authenticates Mr. McLure’s Texas icons.

But it’s more than just the plays themselves. Contemporary Theater of Dallas puts on the best production of them that I’ve ever seen — and I’ve seen a few.

Both plays are set on back porches, one of a home and one of a roadhouse saloon. Scenic Designer Randel Wright has created a fun double-use set that juts out into the seating area, with the audience on either side.

Presented first, Laundry and Bourbon acquaints the audience with the women of the stories who talk about their husbands, their children, and the men they have loved and lost. The most difficult character to portray in either play, the lonely wife Elizabeth (played by Lyn Montgomery), often acts as the “straight-man” to the antics of the other women onstage. Ms. Montgomery chooses to underplay her character’s emotional turmoil, but in a revealing moment, she clearly transcends her character’s usual sad-eyed melancholy as Elizabeth recalls the first days of romance with her often-absent husband, Roy.

This pivotal scene in the story can make or break the comedic tone. Fortunately, in her best onstage moment, Ms. Montgomery nails the woman-to-woman truth telling. This is how women honestly talk to their longtime friends, sharing their hopes, regrets and longings. And director Cynthia Hestand has brought out the best of the story’s subtle touches, setting up the bitingly funny satire.

Equally important, Marisa Diotalevi as Amy Lee, the irrepressible social climber,  and Sue Loncar as the besieged mother Hattie both hold their own. They put plenty of zing into the play’s best one-liners and comically vituperative reactions. Both let their hair down (and even off!) when the stories and insults fly.

Despite how good the first play is, this splendid production of Lone Star is even better. To be fair, the men’s side of the story is better written by far, snappier, and imbued with more fully drawn characters. Nonetheless, the timing and interaction between Mark Nutter as the rakish, testosterone-tipsy Roy and Todd Terry as his milder brother Ray couldn’t be much better.

As a Vietnam veteran who’s come back to his small hometown, Roy can’t seem to let go of the past. He still drives the 1959 pink Thunderbird convertible of his teenage sexual exploits. Like the women, who long for the romance of their youth, Roy holds onto what he can and longs for the wildness of what he believes Texas must have once offered.

As the town’s former teen heartthrob, likened by the women to Paul Newman in Hud, Mr. Nutter brings Roy’s obvious masculine appeal to light as he stands on a table and howls like the long-gone coyotes of his imagination. Both Mr. Terry and Mr. Nutter play well off each other in the perfect-pitch timing needed for the show’s extremely physical comedy. In a smaller role, Ron Alderman walks the walk as the much-put-upon Cletis, whose very presence is enough to incur Roy’s wrath.

Warning for younger audiences: Lone Star/ Laundry and Bourbon has adult language and sexual references. But most adults who attend this production won’t remember when they’ve laughed so much during an evening of theatre.

Contemporary Theater of Dallas  
5601 Sears St.
Through April 10
7:30 p.m. Thurs., 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat. , 2 p.m. Sun.
$18, $12 for seniors & students
214-828-0094
 

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