Alliance's Laundry and Bourbon and Lone Star: One Hit, One Miss
Bourbon is on the rocks, and so, apparently, is a marriage in James McLure's Laundry and Bourbon and Lone Star, two interlocked one-act plays. Both include the same array of characters: two close companions and one intruder bearing a sordid secret. Both end in revelations, vomit, and toppled props. And both acknowledge that the clean slate of a new day might make the previous evening's news a little more palatable.
Gertrude Rodon Exemplary theater on the back porch.
However, there's a fundamental difference in the plays' presentation at Alliance Theatre Lab in Miami Lakes: 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 setting for both is the small Texas town of Maynard a couple of years after the Vietnam War. In the opening play, Laundry and Bourbon, Elizabeth (Gladys Ramirez) folds one and imbibes the other in the comfort of her backyard. Her A/C is broken, but she has a TV set and a stereo outside to help pass the time. With its picket fence, white shirts drying on lines, and hampers of clothes in various states of cleanliness, director Adalberto Acevedo's set design looks properly lived-in while suggesting a married couple walking a precarious tightrope between the lower and middle classes. Its lone dramaturgical mistake is the record player, which is obviously a faux-retro, modern department-store model containing a CD player -- best to switch that out with something more period-appropriate.
Elizabeth is visited by two guests: Hattie (Breeza Zeller), a close friend and a harried mother of three; and the less welcome Amy Lee (Andrea Bovino), a Fundamentalist Baptist and unrepentant gossip. Amy Lee brings news about Elizabeth's wandering husband Roy that Elizabeth probably knew but needed to hear out loud. Nevertheless, more bourbon is downed, and near-fisticuffs soon follow between the hotheaded Hattie and the equally acid-tongued Amy Lee. There's also some creatively staged choreography of women behaving badly.
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. She is as clever with her gestures and expressions as she is with her lines, and in her best moments, sentiment, anger, and wit commingle, capturing the subtle emotional dichotomies in the script.