Texas is a big, big state, with ribbons of roads that run forever and don’t seem to go anyplace.
That description of the state would also be a fitting description for "1959 Pink Thunderbird," the awkward, Texas-based season finale for In Tandem that opened Friday night and runs through May 18.
Thunderbird is really two one-act plays by James McLure, "Laundry and Bourbon" and "Lone Star." The two plays are presented together because there is a common thread of characters and story that runs through both of them, as well as a common location: Maynard, Texas, in 1978.
"Laundry" comes first. It’s about three women who went to high school together and then took divergent paths. All three women have a variety of problems, and they both share and shame each other.
To say "Laundry" is breathtakingly long and slow doesn’t begin to describe it. Nothing happens. It’s at one woman’s house. Her friend arrives. Then the third woman comes by, and they all gossip and then the two friends leave and the one woman is left alone. Thank goodness the lights came on for intermission.
It’s hard to know where to start when describing what happened – or more accurately didn’t happen – on stage.
Libby Amato, who I love onstage, plays housewife number one, whose back porch is the setting. Amato is wistful and spends more time meaningfully staring off into the horizon (minus the meaning) than really makes much sense.
She is joined by Lindsey L. Gagliano, who is the longtime friend number one. Gagliano gives new meaning to over-the-top performances. She is loud and overbearing, and she thinks she’s funny, but she’s not. She has two lengthy phone conversation with her children, and they are a perfect example of how nobody I know talks on the phone.
She repeats what the people on the other end say, so the audience isn’t left in the dark (like I said, I don’t know anyone who really talks that way). Plus, the conversations seemed to go on forever.
The third friend is Mary C. McLellan, playing the "I married into money and belong to the country club, nah-nah-nah and you don’t" friend.
There are a couple of real problems here. The main one is that nobody seems like a real person.
This is 1979 Texas. It’s a boiling summer day. The air conditioning is broken. They are drinking bourbon and cokes. This cries out for slow, but for some reason, the performances move at a pace that seems like some kind of weird race is being run. The contest seems to be who can talk faster and louder, and it ends up with Gagliano taking first place by a mile and Amato and McLellan in a tie for second.
After intermission, we move to "Lone Star," named after the famous Texas beer. It takes place behind a typical honky-tonk, featuring actors Matt Koester and Bob Maass as brothers.
Koester returned from Vietnam two years earlier while Maass didn’t go. Koester obviously has PTSD and can’t seem to get over his war and his youth. He’s also in love with his pink Thunderbird convertible, which was his personal symbol of the best of days and of the kind of guy he wants to be.
We open with Koester and Maass telling us how drunk they are. They then proceed to act like two perfectly sober men, one angry, the other forlorn.
Playing a drunk is a difficult task. But when you think about it, drunk people tend to slow down. They are careful with their words, exaggerating pronunciation so nobody will think they are drunk. Just slouching in a chair doesn’t say "drunk." They needed to find some depth. None of that appears here.
Koester is great at being fiercely angry at his brother and at his world. Maas is a monotone of a lump who tries to keep his brother from going off the deep end while teasing him at the same time.
And finally the appearance that just about brought the entire evening crashing down. Matt Zembrowski, the nerd husband of the country club wife in the first play, shows up. He looks and acts like a one-dimensional Pee Wee Herman. Nobody, and I mean nobody in the entire world, is even close to what Zembrowski gives us. His work is so thin that if I stuck a pocket knife in his character, it would undoubtedly come out the other side.
I will say that there are some moments of humor in "Lone Star," but they are few and far between, lost in a tidal wave of a production that is not nearly ready for prime time.
One of the most interesting things about this production was that Amato and McLellan starred in "The Nightmare Room" at In Tandem. The play was magnificent, and the two actors kept me riveted.
It was a shame to see them trapped in such mediocrity Friday night. It wasn’t worthy of them or In Tandem.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Dave Begel
Published July 1, 2015
The Women's World Cup is turning out to be yet another example of why soccer is called "the beautiful game." Here are six reasons to love watching the tournament.
Published June 30, 2015
The No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the world, Germany and the United States, will meet tonight for a berth in the final of the Women's World Cup. Both teams were favored to win the tournament before it started and the game feels like it should be the final.
Published June 29, 2015
Just one day after the nation was rocked to its foundation by the Supreme Court decision to honor love in all its forms the story of another love that blossomed as the world was changing came to our attention. It's the APT production of "Pride and Prejudice."
Published June 29, 2015
Pity is a coomplex thing but it's relatively easy int he world of sports. There are good guys and bad guys and we like some of them and dislike others. It's all a big pity party.
Published June 28, 2015
"The Island" is a play about the brutality and pain of apartheid in South Africa. But it is also more than that - a tale about the obligation to protest against unworthy conditions. It is a difficult and meaningful play to watch.
Published June 26, 2015
The Milwaukee Bucks, who didn't have much shooting in their arsenal last season, went for exactly that in both the NBA draft and a draft-night trade. Rashad Vaughn, a shooter from UNLV, and Greivis Vasquez, a veteran shooter from the Toronto Raptors, will join the Milwaukee Bucks.
Published June 25, 2015
Summerfest was nothing more than grass and mud in the early days, the level of excitement soon took on a massive personality. The Beach Boys played after a driving rainstorm and Orbison was a wonderful gentleman.
Published June 25, 2015
Following the Rolling Stones can be a problem for any band. But Florida Georgia Line put on its own high-energy show at the Marcus Amphitheater on the first official night of Summerfest.
Published June 24, 2015
The Milwaukee Bucks look to pick up a power forward in the NBA draft Thursday night. The two names most often mentioned are Bobby Portis from Arkansas and Kevon Looney from UCLA, but both Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky from Wisconsin are getting some mentions, as well.
Published June 23, 2015
Sports fans provide support for their teams, both moral and financial. I think fans deserve to be treated with respect and be given honest answers about some of the questions that face teams in trouble, like the Brewers.