Hot summer nights, ice cold beer, sun-baked porches, the sweet sting of bourbon and the smooth lines of a classic car.
These nostalgic, maybe even stereotypical, images define the spirit of Langham Theatre’s new production of 1959 Pink Thunderbird Convertible, written by American playwright James McLure.
Set in Maynard, Texas, the play is a two-for-one look into the lives of six characters, three female, three male, in the troubled times of 1973. The Vietnam war has just ended, men are returning home to their old lives and the glory days of innocence are coming to an end.
The play is made up of two, one-act plays that work separately but have connections both thematically and through character’s relationships. Two local actors-turned-directors are each taking a half and their own look at the themes and issues at the core of the whole.
Paul Terry is making his directorial debut with his half of the play, entitled Lone Star.
In the play three male characters are hanging out in a parking lot behind a late night bar in Maynard. Roy, the central character, is recently returned from the Vietnam war. A former jock, with all the perks that honour brings, Roy was the proud owner of the car of the title.
Now Roy is trying to fit back into civilian life and figure out how to get on with it.
Terry said that although it’s a story of a bygone era, its themes and intent ring true in this time of barely-post-Iraq and Afghanistan conflict. Despite the serious topics the play is a funny one, said Terry, that will get the audience laughing but give them something to chew on too.
“It is a very funny piece and yet it does have a contemporary relevance,” Terry said.
A long time actor, Terry is leaving his comfort zone to direct for the first time. Langham’s production committee made a deliberate effort to involve young, developing theatre types in the production and approached Terry specifically to take on the challenge.
“I jumped at the chance, in fact, because I thought it would be interesting to see that world from the other side,” Terry said. “It’s been fascinating actually. I think I’ve learned a lot. It’s a much more all-encompassing view you have to have as a director.”
Heather Jarvie, who is an actor and director, as well as a student at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, is directing Laundry and Bourbon, the other half of the play.
Two characters from Jarvie’s play are married to two of the character’s from Terry’s play, but otherwise the works are not intertwined directly. They take place in different locations, at different times, and each stands alone as a work.
“At the end of the day you shouldn’t feel like you’ve seen two plays, but two different looks at one kind of story,” Jarvie said.
In Jarvie’s half, three women sit on a porch and dish. They gossip, they carry on, but they also tackle some issues, such as infidelity and the challenge of reestablishing a relationship with someone who has returned from war.
“It’s a little gossipy and girlie and chit-chatty but at the same time we’re also seeing some really great relationships,” Jarvie said. “It’s certainly a lot of fun but there’s some meat to it as well.”
The play runs until May 12 Tuesdays through Saturdays, at 8 p.m. Matinees at 2 p.m. are also running on May 5 and May 12. Tickets are $19 for adults, $17 for seniors/students and $14 per for groups of 10 or more, and are available at langhamtheatre.ca or by calling 250-384-2142.