Pass the gossip, fold the laundry and pour another Jim Beam. In the hot desert town of Maynard Texas, it is 1973, and no one is happy. The Vietnam War has ended, the men have come home, and nothing is the same as it was.
Coast Community Productions has mounted the James McLure play, 1959 Pink Thunderbird Convertible, which opens this weekend at the Gibsons Heritage Playhouse.
The first act, Laundry & Bourbon, is set on the back porch of a tired house, laundry hanging from the line. Elizabeth, quiet, “hot and hollow” inside, and her visitors, the hilarious Hattie, a loud do-or-die scrapper, and Amy Lee, a prissy wealthy-by-marriage, country club member, interact over the course of the afternoon.
They talk about their men, their marriages and their lives, while folding laundry and drinking numerous bourbon and cokes. True human beings emerge, conflicted, funny and tragic.
But the refrain is Elizabeth’s. She wants to know how to get back to the time before her husband went to war. Back to a time when he was gentle, when their love was sweet, before his nightmares, anger and constant fighting.
With Simone Tyrrell as the hollow Elizabeth, Sophie Ballantyne as the funny Hattie and Elisa Jardine as a perfect Amy Lee, the trio parts as the sun sets, “the only times things get soft” anymore in Maynard.
Lone Star, the second act, brings on the boys. Roy, Elizabeth’s haunted husband, is out back of a run-down bar, drinking. His lament matches his wife’s — nothing is the same as before he went to Vietnam. He is trying to “come back to a good place” in his mind, but is ambushed by dreams and anger.
His gentle and slightly brain-damaged brother Ray is a great foil for Roy’s explosive energy. They talk about old days, old friends, the war — and as they do, Roy erupts with joy then anger, bouncing from one to the other like a pinball. There is no good place, no calm for him.
One of the people they talk about is Cletis, the rich do-good boy, married to Amy Lee. Roy hates him and Ray admires him. When he joins them onstage, it becomes clear that he idolizes Roy to distraction, the one person who hates him the most.
Throughout this act, the boys refer to Roy’s car many times, always by its full name. It is never “my car” or “the convertible” but each and every time “the 1959 Pink Thunderbird Convertible,” each word spoken with reverence, an invocation to the god of men things, a prayer to freedom and normal, to making everything all right again.
Daniel Tyrrell is the lost and combustible Roy, Tom Cantley is the gentle Ray, and Dave Hallstead is neurotically uncertain Cletis.
The production runs from Nov. 14 to Dec. 1 (with shows every Thursday, Friday and Saturday) at 8 p.m. Tickets for those shows are $20. Matinées are at 2 p.m. with $15 tickets.
A gala performance is set for this Saturday (Nov. 17) with an opening reception. Purchase all tickets at Laedeli and Gaia’s Fair Trade in Gibsons and at Strait Music in Sechelt. Proceeds from the production are going to support the Elves Club.