From the moment you walk into the Fourth Street Theater to see Crowded Outlet's LONE STAR SPIRITS, the environment makes you want to have a drink. The set is like a cross between a VFW cellar bar and a general store, run down and short on supplies, inviting in the way that all places which have served their purpose and yet stubbornly hang on, are. You know it has passed its sale by date and you like it even better because it doesn't care.
The characters, too, have been hanging around a bit too long. DREW, (Aaron Roman Weiner), overwhelmed in a Brad Paisley Stetson, tries to carry himself like he's still playing tightend for the home team. (The reader will forgive if I mix up football positions) His glory days are now all tied up with raising the funds for a monument of him catching the winning play that took the local high school to state championship. Of course, he drinks a lot.
His friend, proprietor WALTER, (Martin LaPlatney), is a voice off-stage for the first five minutes and it is a wonderful voice. Filled with all the color of the locale and the wisdom that comes from selling too much whiskey to dreamers like Drew. Where Drew is short and wired, Walter enters like a long drink of Texas water, eliciting an interrogation from Drew because he is wearing a tie.
Soon JESSICA, (Amelia McClain), a single Gulf War widow with a kid to feed, buys whatever she needs to nullify both her son and her mom who's babysitting so that she can go out and get drunk with the girls. The angry non-looks she and Drew throw each other are filled with all the mystery of small town life; a place where rumors fly so fast you have to wear a helmet to keep your head on. They are discreet.
MARLEY, (Mikaela Feely-Lehmann), long gone and living in Austin, arrives with her Eastern-born fiancé BEN, (KeiLyn Durrel Jones), in tow to visit Walter her father. They make it known pretty quickly that they have no interest in staying the night, though Ben wants to buy all the 'authentic'' rickety furniture for his online store...until one of the chairs collapses.
Jessica tries to remind Marley of their old high school friendship while Drew keeps flirting, talking about their dating days as often as he mentions the BIG GAME. Pretty soon we discover that Marley and her mom deserted the town and her father long time ago, but now Marley needs dad's help so that she can move forward in her precisely planned future.
There is an abundance of humor, warmth and wisdom in this small show. Ghosts and guns play their part, but it is its well-drawn and beautifully played characters that make it a go see. Director Wes Grantom does a great job of bumping people into each other at just the right moment and playwright Josh Tobiessen knows how to spin a surprise like a master.
LONE STAR SPIRITS will be performed at the 4th Street Theatre (83 East 4th Street) beginning Friday, June 3rd (through Sunday, June 19th).