Lone Star Spirits: Ghosts and Shots
The playwright, Josh Tobiessen, is having a lot of fun with a good title, playing on the word ‘spirits’ and its many meanings, and creating a pretty good play around it. It’s funny, charming and filled with a lot of big Texan heart, and pretty and good are about the right words for this production, but less so for the actual written play. Crowded Outlet, the producer here, has put together quite a great looking production; a surprise when walking into the theatre, a perfect set (set design by D’Vaughn Agu), and a great cast to utilize the space with. If it wasn’t for their dedication and skill, I think this would have been a more muddled and unfocused experience, but the cast and crew do a great job giving it some real Lone Star heart and emotionality.
Lone Star Spirits is a classic estranged daughter coming home story mixed with a wee bit of a spooky sweet ghost story all set in a small dying Texan town’s family-owned liquor store. It’s a great concept, and when you throw in a few old acquaintances of Marley’s (a talented Midaela Feely-Lehmann), the daughter of Walter (a fantastic Martin LaPlatney), namely the old sweetheart of Marley, Drew (a perfect Aaron Roman Weiner), an old high school friend, Jessica (a spot-on Amelia McClain), and her new North Eastern fiancé, Ben (a fun KeiLyn Durrel Jones) you have a great mixed cocktail of laughs, love, jealousy and high jinks. For some more favor and spice, Tobiessen has thrown in some celebratory shots both of the liquor and also the gun variety, surprising and hilarious, a bottle shaking ghost, and we are off to the races.
Aaron Roman Weiner as Drew has a great time playing the small town man who still lives for his one moment of glory, catching and making the winning touchdown for his high school football team, winning the one championship this town can claim. He’s even trying to raise money to build a monument celebrating his one moment of glory, for the good of the town’s spirit, so he says. Mainly he’s stuck, living in the past like a still-alive ghost, and holding on to former love and glory. Drew loves to hang out with Walter and drink the evenings away after his work. As Walter, Marley’s ignored father (after she and her mother left town and husband for Austin), LaPlatney is the heart and soul (there’s a great joke on that later) of this story. His voice, the first thing we get from him from off-stage, resonates right away for us. He’s an old man that we instantly care for, holding on to the past, this building, his store, his love of his daughter, and the ghost of the founding father, which helps make him feel connected to his disconnected daughter.
Skillfully directed by Wes Grantom, everyone else has a great time playing this characters with almost perfection; a talented group and a great ensemble. McClain is especially wonderful as a mother and a widow of a soldier desperately trying to have a rare moment of fun on a girl’s night out in this not fun town. The play, though filled with charm and heart, has a few awkward moments that still need to be worked through to make it fully realized and flow freely, like all the spirits being summoned and drunk. Moments need to be deepened, and transitions need to be ironed out, but the play has a great core; connections and relationships are all there, even the one with the ghost of the town’s past.
Cast Mikaela Feely-Lehmann, KeiLyn Durrel Jones, Martin LaPlatney, Amelia McClain and Aaron Roman Weiner