Actors Workshop rides a lonely range with folksy comedies


Theater fashions are a lot like zoo fashions: exhibits that seem exotic now will seem unremarkable later. A few centuries ago, kings and queens, lords and ladies were the most popular displays at theaters.

Eventually, fashion went to the opposite extreme. Twentieth-century American theater, at least, couldn't exist without smalltown average folks and rural innocents. Some of the purist distillations of that humble spirit are to be found in James McLure's 1979 one-act comedies "Laundry and Bourbon" and "Lone Star."

Since then, bitterly comic urban angst has taken over the lion's share of the exhibit space in the theatrical zoo. The Repertory Actors Workshop, however, has mosied on back to McLure's mythical town of Maynard, Texas, to take another look at the good old boys and good old gals who are trapped there, sedated with alcohol and reminiscence.

The Actors Workshop is a group of young Asian Americans. They put on the Maynard boots and jeans, drawls and hoots. But ethnic reality gives a certain novelty to the proceedings, especially when the men talk about killing "gooks" in "Vit Nam," for example, or the women flutter over the complexities of an "Oriental parlor game" (mah-jong).

Caricatures - especially such familiar caricatures on good old boys and gals - can use all available novel freshening.

Beyond nontraditional casting, however, director David Hsieh doesn't really have surprising ideas to share about essentially unsurprising people.

The writing in "Laundry and Bourbon" is tame. The earthy woman, the trashy woman and the pretentious woman fulfill expectations with daytime TV dialogue about infidelities, lost loves, unruly children and inconceivable conceptions. It is kind of funny, though, when the trashy woman points out that her children would not have been able to set her mother-in-law's Pekingese on fire if the dog weren't so hairy.

"Lone Star" is more quirky. The wild man, the wild man's innocent brother and the brother's nerdy companion spice their bubba cornpone with some odd condiments. A 1959 pink Thunderbird convertible becomes an eroding symbol of youth, vitality, adventure, sex and romance. And the innocent brother is so unsophisticated that he managed to innocently transgress one of "God's major laws."

While the Actors Workshop stagecraft and performances offer mostly no-frills basics, a couple of the actors' renditions are pleasantly gutsy: Joseph S. Yang, as the innocent, and Lisa Marie Nakamura, as the undisposable trash.

September 15, 1994


Laundry and Bourbon; and Lone Star Two one-act comedies by James McLure. Repertory Actors Workshop production at the Theatre Off Jackson, 409 Seventh Ave. S. Through September 25. Tickets $6-$10; 364-3283.

© 1994 Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Reprinted with permission by ReAct.

Home | Box Office | About Us | History | Artists | Donate | Opportunities | Shop | ReAct Links | Contact Us