'Laundry & Bourbon'

Hattie, Elizabeth and Amy Lee are three small-town Texas friends who share a little too much bourbon one hot afternoon in Elizabeth’s backyard. Pictured here, from left, are Freda MacIntosh as Hattie, Donna Spell as Elizabeth, and Liza Jones as Amy Lee.

Greenwood Little Theatre’s current show of linked one-act plays, “Laundry and Bourbon” and “Lone Star,” on stage through Sunday, makes you laugh and makes you think.

The characters, created by playwright James McClure, are painted with bold strokes, and there’s not a wasted line of dialogue in these tight domestic comedies that probe into sacred territory: What makes us who we are? What can we rely on in this life? Why are we always looking elsewhere for answers rather than inside ourselves? What endures?

‘LAUNDRY AND BOURBON’

Kicking off a rousing evening at the theater is “Laundry and Bourbon,” the story of Elizabeth, Hattie and Amy Lee, three women sipping bourbon throughout an afternoon’s visit. The play encapsulates rising surface tension between two rivals, Hattie and Amy Lee, that ends hilariously and is underscored by the internal conflict of the third, Elizabeth, waiting for her husband Roy, a Vietnam vet gone missing for two days, to return home.

Freda McIntosh, a teacher at North New Summit School and a stalwart at Greenwood Little Theatre, knocks it out of the park as Hattie, a bighearted woman struggling to keep her pack of feral kids under control while grasping for a life of her own, away from them.

McIntosh’s one-liners are tone perfect, setting in motion a steady rhythm of belly laughs from the audience.

Liza Jones as Amy Lee is the perfect foil — perky, blonde and hypocritical — and the not-so-subtle volley of insults between the two steadily feeds the play’s momentum.

Donna Buford Spell, meanwhile, grounds the action onstage as she mediates conflict between Hattie and Amy Lee, refilling their glasses and, always, keeping an eye toward the road, hoping for a glimpse of Roy.

“Laundry and Bourbon” brilliantly underscores the nature of long-term relationships, reminding us that beneath all the manipulation, scheming and compromise lie lasting values that keep us planted in one place, hoping to grow old together.

Elizabeth lets us know she expects to see Roy roll up in his prized 1959 pink Thunderbird convertible, keeper of her memories and his, and as Spell holds the spotlight at the end of the play, gazing at the big Texas night sky, we half expect to hear it rolling up the gravel driveway.

“Lone Star” opens with Roy, working steadily toward a drunken bender, sucking on a series of Lone Star beers out back behind Angel’s bar, counting the stars.

Played with menace and gusto by Greenwood Little Theatre veteran David Dallas, Roy is joined shortly by his brother Ray, captured with a sweetness of spirit by Indianola actor Andy Daniels.

Roy and Ray share a big-little brother dynamic that stretches well beyond the haphazard circumstances of this night, the details of which cannot be revealed. Suffice to say a conflict arises among the brothers and Cletis Fullernoy, Amy Lee’s husband, the earnest, square kind of guy Roy loves to hate.

Cameron Abel infuses Cletis with just enough haplessness to instill audience sympathy while maintaining an edge in his delivery when it counts.

Like the women, these men are going through the motions of getting drunk and kicking off a string of chaotic events while underneath, they reveal all the chinks in their armor.

The choreography of their movements onstage is lovely, rendered by the familiarity of kinfolks who’ve known each other all their lives, as well as the familiarity of actors who’ve played these roles before, internalizing the dance.

Put together, these two plays deliver precisely what we appreciate most about a night at the theater — a chance to escape for a few hours and a chance to witness an original perspective on time-worn themes.

If you don’t feel like thinking, go anyway. The laughs are loose, free and abundant in both plays, delivered by these actors with a Southern kick as bold as a swig of bourbon, refreshing as a cold Lone Star beer.

• Contact Kathryn Eastburn at 581-7235 or keastburn@gwcommonwealth.com.

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