The Jacksonville University Drama Department opened a two-weekend run of James McLure’s classic one-act plays, “Laundry & Bourbon” and “Lone Star”. The production continues March 1-2 at 7:30 pm and March 3 at 2:30 pm at Swisher Theatre, on the JU campus on University Boulevard North. The late Texas playwright McLure was also well known for his plays “The Day They Shot John Lennon” and “Wild Oats”.
These companion pieces explore the lives of a group of related characters during a brief period of time in 1975 in Maynard, a small Texas town located outside Dallas. “Laundry & Bourbon” is set in the backyard of Elizabeth Caulder, played by ASHLEY JONES, a sophomore JU theatre major. Besides her work on the JU stage, she is known to community theatregoers for fine work at Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre in this season’s “The God of Carnage” and previously in their production of “The Children’s Hour”.
As Elizabeth does her laundry on her porch, she is joined by her best friend, colorful and humorous Hattie, in an excellent portrayal by JU junior KATARINA HOWELL, who is a real life Texas gal. They discuss life in general but mainly Elizabeth’s husband Roy who is having a difficult time adjusting to life after his military service in Vietnam and has taken to heavy drinking.
After a time, snooty scripture-quoting friend Amy Lee shows up to gossip, and fueled by bourbon mixed with coke, true feelings begin to flow and fly. Amy, who married a man who has money but lacks maturity and charm, is wonderfully played by ELAINE TYSON, a JU senior whose work we also enjoyed in ABET’s “The Children’s Hour”, and in the excellent musical “The Gondoliers” on the JU stage.
These three are terrific in their roles, and were a very convincing trio with superb gestures and fine vocal projection. They are also good comic actors, and there is a lot of humor as they discuss what is happening in Elizabeth’s life.
After a short intermission, we found the opposite side of the stage converted into the backyard of Angel’s Bar, a low-life hangout, where an old car seat is the only furniture amid the litter of empty beer cans and trash. Here we find we meet Elizabeth’s husband Roy, his younger brother Ray, and Amy Lee’s husband Cletis, an old friend who runs his daddy’s successful appliance store.
The disheveled Roy is drunk again, as he has been every day since he returned from Vietnam over two years ago. Through a drunken haze Roy proclaims he loves his wife, his country and his 1959 pink Thunderbird convertible. One suspects his car really comes first, as he relates to Ray the many sexcapades he has enjoyed over the years in the back seat of his beloved automobile.
JU senior ROY MATOS is delightful as Roy’s adoring and sincere but not overly bright brother Ray, who struggles to confess his past sinful behavior. Since we don’t want to be spoilers we won’t relate details here. Mr. Matos is a computer Animation Major but has been very active on the JU stage in a number of plays.
The rich man’s son, Cletis, who has idolized Roy since their school days together, is played to perfection by DAVID BILBRAY as he is bullied and browbeaten by Roy. We recall Mr. Bilbray’s previous excellent performance as Ira in “Laughter on the 23rd Floor” on the JU stage.
With the role of Roy, NICK BOUCHER, a senior who will graduate in May, has reached fantastic heights in performance, to add to an impressive list of both dramatic and musical theatre roles at JU and in the Jacksonville area. We recall his excellent performances as “Duke” in “Two Gentlemen of Verona”, George in “All My Sons”, Max Prince in Laughter on the 23rd Floor”, the Clown in ABET’s “The 39 Steps”, and most recently, Alan in “God of Carnage“, also at ABET. Here, he closes his local career with a tour de force performance as Roy. He creates a character we actually like, even thought he is a drunk; promiscuous, raging, shiftless, and violent, but also vulnerable. And also believable, because Boucher as the warrior who has returned gives his all with emotional and physical abandon.
Set and Lighting Designer Ben Wilson has captured the atmosphere of the playwright’s Texas slice of life with two full-size building exteriors complete with rustic furnishings. Costumer Renee Pharis’s creations add touches of color with the women’s clothing, while the men’s are drab, just as you would expect.
Deborah Jordan has done a truly outstanding bit of casting and direction that reflects the quality of the theatre program that exists at Jacksonville University.
Don’t miss a performance of this entertaining and enlightening production. JU makes it affordable for everyone with $10.00 tickets, $7.00 for seniors and students. Also, plan to see “Street Scene, An American Opera”, the next upcoming production at the Swisher Theatre, which will be staged from April 5 – April 7. All seats are general admission so you can choose where you want to sit. Jacksonville University is located at 2800 University Boulevard North. Ample free parking is available.