"Laundry & Bourbon" and "Lone Star" continue at The Snug through Sept. 21. Photo: The Snug Theatre

How The Other Half Drinks

By Carolyn Hayes Harmer

Gather enough evidence surrounding a thing, and you'll get an idea of the thing itself. Playwright James McLure conducts just such a contextual experiment with "Laundry & Bourbon" and "Lone Star," adjoining one-act plays that, when taken together, attempt to flesh out the complexities of a marriage by inference alone. But in The Snug Theatre's broadly comic double-bill production, under the direction of Nancy Arnfield, easy small-town Southern humor takes top billing over melancholy swipes at lost romance and a relationship in crisis.

The woman's perspective predominates in "Laundry & Bourbon," which unfolds languidly through a sweltering back-porch afternoon in pathetic Maynard, Texas, some decades past. Meditative Elizabeth (Belinda Hellebuyck) is caught in moody reverie by her nervy best friend, Hattie (Kelly Kennedy), and the two begin folding clothes and mixing drinks to pass the time. Whereas frazzled Hattie needs a sanity break from her energetic brood, lonely Elizabeth is stuck wondering where her husband has disappeared to this time - he hasn't been the same in the two years since returning from service in Vietnam. The conversation flows between expository gossip and expository nostalgia until the arrival of Amy Lee (Krista Haney) and her prim unpleasantness, which serves to further broaden the world of the play and bring various conflicts to a head. The expansive performances prize big comic choices over subtext: Whereas Kennedy lays on infinite variations of humorously indignant, and Haney visibly calculates and lets fly with copious sanctimony, infinitely gentle Hellebuyck (and her more nuanced protagonist's struggle) can only keep up with the tone by staring even harder into the middle distance.

A short intermission changes the scene from day to night, swapping the homestead for the rear of a Maynard saloon and the stifling overhead sun for a neon sign and neglected alley dim. The initial impression is that the men of "Lone Star" couldn't be more different from their women: Instead of sitting dutifully at home, they go out and start trouble; instead of slurping cool libations and maybe getting a bit silly, they swill beer after beer to get stinking drunk. But as the conversation meanders, to past girls and cars and exploits as well as present disappointments, the ties and parallels become increasingly clear.

At the center of "Lone Star" is Roy (Matt Siadek), the wayward veteran husband to Elizabeth of "Laundry & Bourbon." His drinking companion is his brother, Ray (Matt Boucher), who over the course of the night loyally endures the same old stories, complaints, and furious resistance to - and resentment of - change. Because the viewers have already heard so much about Roy, they're aware that his static life is reaching a crossroads, which becomes even more immediate with the addition of deeply ridiculed Cletis (Sean May), again forcing the slice-of-life story forward. But rather than coming across as maudlin, the events follow even more in the comic vein than their predecessors. Lolling Siadek brings a hubristic swagger and half-grin to his sentimental likely alcoholic of questionable function, May dopily sputters and flails under the sheer weight of his forever-unmet need to be liked, and Boucher brightly swings for the fences with every last yokel-y double take and dimwitted laugh line.

By heightening the twanging comedy of "Laundry & Bourbon" and "Lone Star," Arnfield and company create a bookend production connected more by mirror-image story arcs and minute similarities than by the relationship ostensibly at its center. Despite a bit of touchy subject matter, including the aftereffects of war and some talk of family planning, the show invites markedly more laughter than heavy contemplation. These sunny, silly glimpses into two halves of a community stand on their own, leaving it to the viewer whether to fill in the blanks in the main story.


'Laundry & Bourbon' and 'Lone Star'

The Snug Theatre

160 S. Water St., Marine City

7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11, 18

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12, 19

7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13, 20

3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 7, 14, 21

2 hours, 30 minutes




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