BWW Reviews: T-Birds, Bourbon and Beer 'Mix it Up' at In Tandem
America loves cars, big or beautiful cars, and the late playwright James McLure uses a classical 1959 Thunderbird as a metaphor for his two one act plays In Tandem Theater blends into their season ending selection: 1959 Pink Thunderbird. At the Tenth Street Theatre, the two one act plays directed by Jane and Chris Flieller feature a feminine version and a masculine perspective on why this ionic pink T-bird, often immortalized in such songs as "Fun, Fun, Fun" by the retro Beach Boys, became romantic inspiration for hometown stories and legends, including those in Maynard, Texas, circa 1978.
The 1959 Ford Thunderbird represented a status symbol since the car's inception in 1955, while the year 1959 introduced the first four-seat model with the most powerful V-8 engine at the time. A V-8 engine considered outrageous power for what was nicknamed a "square-bird" because the car was manufactured entirely of metal and available with comfortable, elegant leather seats. As a convertible, Ford's T-bird symbolized freedom, luxury, power and a back seat large enough to accommodate a man's sexual prowess anywhere he wished, even when traveling the road.
In the first half of the evening during Laundry and Bourbon, three women relate the travails of their domestic life to each other sitting on a back porch while drinking bourbon and coke in the tiny rural town of Maynard. The second act to the evening named Lone Star presents three men, two being the husbands from the women in the first act, getting drunk outside a bar where they down bottles of the regional beer also named Lone Star. Both plays idolize the 1959 Pink Thunderbird Ray drives and his wife Elizabeth longs to see come up their driveway.
With In Tandem's performance, Elizabeth (Libby Amato), Hattie (Lindsey L. Gaglian0) and Amy Lee (Mary C. McClellan) discuss their past high school lives from a decade ago when Elizabeth's husband drove the 1959 Pink Thunderbird, a car that "glistened in the sun." Today, Elizabeth wishes for "one more night in the backseat of the Thunderbird where "you get out of town with the boy you love more than anything in the world."
A lonely Amato and a honest, funny Gagliano imbibe their delicious chemistry together recreating rural Texas life where McClellan's strict Baptist heritage may allow her to indulge in a bourbon and coke, although she says "there are few things Baptists can do without damnation." The three speak to their husbands work, their lost high school social structure and the infamous pink T-Bird. While all three are accomplished actors, the women might often develop deeper connections to these characters lost in this "place," so much a part of McLure's play, and then the changing situations where they presently find themselves.
While these three douse their memories over the drudgery of doing laundry sipping Bourbon and Coke, their conversation reveals the loneliness of Elizabeth, who's husband served in Vietnam and came home a changed and distressed man, as most soldiers do from any war. Hattie tries to escape the travails of raising three children, and Amy Lee placates herself with the fact her husband owns the a store in Maynard, sucess so she can belong to a country club, "a place to keep people out of."
In the second act of the evening, Lone Star features two brothers Ray (Rob Maass) and Roy (Matt Koester), where Ray longs for relief from his awful war dreams and remembers his fantastic, free life driving the 1959 Pink Thunderbird he still owns, a constant symbol of power and sexuality. Amy Lee's very conservative husband, Cletis (Matt Zembrowski), all succumb to getting drunk while they reveal secrets that will change the face of the future, including that of the 1959 Pink Thunderbird. These three men create an intense energy, which could sometimes demonstrate more nuanced emotion, while still uncovering a tender male bonding between Roy and Ray, all accomplished with some comic flair and very funny dialogue to keep the audience laughting amid their troubles.
Anyone who has driven in a convertible with the ragtop down knows the exhilaration of feeling the wind in one's hair or staring at the stars under an ink blue sky on a summer night while driving on the road. Stopping somewhere on the path to romance with the one you think you love more than anything else in the world and gliding into the back seat where sitting under the moonlight spooning, yes, that forgotten word, can be as intoxicating as bourbon or beer.
In Tandem's also intoxicating, humorous production even if a shade one dimensional at times will give the audience an opportunity to appreciate the allure of a luxury car, innocence, love and youth long passed, how war can dramatically shape lives and why dreams change as people grow up and older. The company's 1959 Pink Thunderbirdl certainly entertains an audience while they reminisce what brought each person to a particular place in their own lives. A performance that leaves lingering thoughts of what has been and what can still become happiness in the future. Especially when treasured possessions and people, even a precious T-Bird, might be lost forever.
In Tandem presents 1959 Pink Thunderbird at 628 North Tenth Street through May 18. For information on the 2013-2014 season and subscriptions, or tickets, please call 414.271.1371 or www.intandemtheatre.org.