Mettle Theatre at the Heartland Studio Theatre
Drunkin Grownups (that rhymes with Dunkin Donuts) delivers what the title promises: fresh, tantalizing doughnuts, stale and inebriated characters. Served with an unbelievable, uninteresting plot about a father who meets the son he never knew he had, Mark Routhier's Drunkin Grownups belabors its points about relationships, fear of failure, and the sleaziness of the advertising business.
Twenty-three years after their breakup, Harry stumbles into Mrs. Donuts, the shop where his former wife Maggie works the graveyard shift. He returns night after night for three months, never explaining where he's been or why he's back. Then one night a young stranger, Cliff, enters the shop, and over spiked hot chocolate Harry pours out the story of his fall from big shot New York ad executive to alcoholic handyman. Of course, Cliff is Harry and Maggie's son, and though Harry is unaware of this fact, Cliff and Maggie all but wink at each other to let us in on the big secret. Cliff and Harry have a few moments where wit and insight break through the cliches, but not many.
The tastiest comedic moments come from the bizarre minor characters who meander in from the night. Routhier and actor Kelly Brant have created a small masterpiece in Freddie, the baker who stops the show every time he lovingly transports trays of his confections from the kitchen. Says Freddie, "I'm a simple chef and a proud father." His only offspring are his doughnuts, on which he sprinkles love ("You're my whole world") and advice ("Nobody wants a bunch of desperate doughnuts").
Jud, a fixture at Mrs. Donuts who silently builds matchstick forts in the corner, and two neo-hippies on their way to a Grateful Dead concert also provide relief from the sticky melodrama. Modern dialogue ("waitress + moron = waitron") and funny but restrained performances by Kathy Fabian and Kimo Wills save the deadheads from stereotype. Director and set designer Mark Alexander Clover (who also plays Jud) keeps the action on the single set moving without rushing things.
Clover is less successful at his main task--keeping us interested in the exchange between father and son. As Harry, Kent Reed is appropriately dry and caustic, but after numerous bottomless speeches his deep, world-weary voice merely drones. Routhier's script calls for Cliff to transform within two hours from eager youth to hardened cynic, and Greg Kopp's extreme swing from peppy to nasty only emphasizes the problem. These two drunken grown-ups, repeating themselves and bragging, are too much like the real thing--talking a lot and saying little.
LONE STAR and
LAUNDRY & BOURBON Full Moon Revivals at Beat Kitchen
Neither overly deep nor outrageously funny, James McLure's complementary one-acts, Lone Star and Laundry & Bourbon, are amusing slices of Texas life that, in their finest moments, shine light on the many levels of friendship and the sorrows that people keep hidden from their close friends and, if possible, themselves. Lone Star, set in a yard behind a bar where three men congregate, and Laundry & Bourbon, which follows the men's wives through an afternoon, tell two sides of the same Vietnam-era story.
The title Lone Star represents the state, the beer the men guzzle, and a frame of mind. Vietnam veteran Roy has been home from the war for two years and still can't quite fit in. It's not shell shock but memories of his wild youth that make contentment impossible. For him, nothing about his current life can compare to starting bar fights with his pal Wayne and nights of sexual conquest in his pink '59 Thunderbird. Roy's sentimental wanderings would be pathetic if his brother Ray weren't there to catch him in a few tall tales and bring him back to reality.
Kevin Paul as Roy and Ken Bradley as Ray mirror the strengths of their characters. Wild and charismatic, Roy is the unequivocal star of his hometown and hunky actor Paul the star of this play. Ray, a less flamboyant character, is Roy's calming influence, and appropriately Bradley's solid performance gives the production its foundation. The brothers' bond is portrayed unerringly in a funny bit where Roy drunkenly demonstrates to Ray that chocolate, popcorn, and beer make the perfect sweet-salty-sour combination, and poignantly when Ray confesses to sleeping with Roy's wife while Roy was in Vietnam.
In Laundry & Bourbon, Roy's wife Elizabeth (Jennifer Allton) also pines for the old days, when Roy had enthusiasm for life and she had his attention. Folding laundry over bourbon with her friend Hattie, Elizabeth reveals that she's pregnant and that Roy, who's been unable to hold a job for two years, has been gone for two days. But her problems are pushed into the background by Hattie's enthusiasm for Let's Make a Deal, Hattie's wacky stories about her undisciplined children, and an unexpected visit from Amy Lee, Hattie's rival.
Hattie and Amy Lee (Heather Grayson and Elizabeth Pratt) are stereotypical loud and catty southerners: they don't seem to understand the depth of Elizabeth's worries, and yet their happy madness seems enough to boost Elizabeth's spirits. The production ends with her alone but smiling as we hear Bette Midler singing "You've Got to Have Friends." With this overdone ending, director Danny Haag seems to be telling us that Hattie and Amy Lee have helped Elizabeth, that women get through hard times on giggles and gossip alone. Perhaps this is McLure's simplistic vision of female camaraderie. Or perhaps he intended a grimmer ending, where Elizabeth is alone, physically and emotionally. Though a sad picture, it would be more honest.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/E.G. Pratt Photography.