James McLure's "Laundry & Bourbon" and "Lone Star," two one-acts billed as "Texas comedies," aren't very funny - amusing at times, yes, but mostly just stark portraits of sad people.
However, with director David Hsieh's all Asian American cast drawling in Texan, the new version by Repertory Actors Workshop (ReAct) saves the play from being too maudlin or depressing.
"Laundry & Bourbon" sees three women (Gigi Jhong, Lisa Marie Nakamura & Liane Loui) sipping and gossiping on a scorching summer day, bemoaning dead-end lives with deadbeat husbands. "Lone Star" shows brothers Roy (Hsieh) and Ray (Joseph Yang), whose empty beer bottles and emptier macho nostalgia for a 1959 pink T-bird lead to ugly revelations of family betrayal.
While the director has nicely fleshed out the brothers, he has misled Hing Lam as Cletis, a stereotypical "nerd" in clashing plaids, giving Lam no room dramatically. This and the occasional odd irony of the casting (e.g. Roy using racial slurs about Southeast Asians) are the only missteps of the production.
Yang is a natural onstage, and Nakamura wisecracks with dry Della Reese inflections. But it is Jhong, a UW drama student who stands out with expressiveness and quiet reserve. When she stares into the distance, both character and performer seem to see a future of better, brighter things to come.
("Laundry" and "Lone Star" play at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday through Sept. 25 at Theatre Off Jackson, 409 Seventh Ave. S. 364-3283.)