April 5, 2016
Any doubt about actor/playwright
Jaston Williams’ gift for yarn-
spinning was banished during his
impromptu pre-curtain remarks last
Sunday at the Classic Theatre, where
he was premiering his latest show,
A Wolverine Walks into a Bar (Conversations over Ice).
The usual request to turn off “things
that make noise” evolved into a
comical account of his attempt to
visit El Mirador for lunch a few
hours earlier, when he was stymied
at every turn by downtown street
closures for safe biking and walking
by participants in the YMCA Síclovía. Stuck behind a dreadfully slow bike, he finally passed and discovered the reason for its snail’s pace – the rider was smoking a cigarette.
Whether Mr. Williams sees funny things, or sees things funny, the co-creator of the Greater Tuna plays has a proven knack for finding and accentuating the humor in all manner of real or imaginary characters and scenarios. He explained that the wacky, often touching 75-minute piece is a work in progress which he expects to expand and tweak in coming months. Much of it is San Antonio-tinged, with references such as the long line for the LuAnne platter at Luby’s.
He shares the stage with Linda Ford, an actor and longtime friend with whom he worked at San Antonio’s First Repertory Theater in the early 1970s. When a family emergency forced his original cast partner to leave unexpectedly, Ms. Ford agreed to pinch-hit as a drinking buddy who listens intently to his tales and relates curious news stories between Mr. Williams’s appearances. The setting is a bar, where each of the characters tends to imbibe too much. There are no props; all gestures are pantomimed, with Kevin Bailey, Linda Donahue and Kristin Rogers credited as directors.
Mr. Williams first appears wearing ostrich cowboy boots and a T-shirt saying “Armed and Liberal,” which is a pretext allowing him to chat with some gun owners at a firearms convention in Cincinnati. He talks with a female “gun carrying nut” who is so completely in opposition to him that he rattles off a long, increasingly hilarious list of topics to avoid. He learns that her reason for keeping guns was a home invasion when she had no weapon other than a waffle iron with which to whack the burglar. Common ground is achieved when they show each other pictures of their grandkids. That, he muses, is what the founding fathers must have wanted – a reason for and place where people with differences could securely meet and communicate.
Williams’s next character is an elderly lady wearing lots of jewelry, a feather-trimmed red hat and silvery wedge sandals. In a rather pompous accent, she reveals that she used to be a world traveler whose late sister was a favorite companion. There are somewhat naughty tales of encounters with a gondolier in Venice and an amusing treatise on how the meaning of the word “suck” should be changed. The entire scenario was rather wistful and endearingly funny. And, as he made his way offstage, well, no one can mince like J.W. in drag.
The final character is an amiable alcoholic wearing a fringed suede jacket and fleece-lined boots. He claims that his military father was the whitest of whites, a sort of universal racist, while he always made friends with Hispanics. So, the father put him in a predominantly Hispanic school, where he immersed himself in the culture by, for example, recognizing that some things – such as swearing – were ugly in English, but became poetry in Spanish.
As fate would have it, this guy married a Latina named Maria who wants to be white, so she calls herself Mary. When she’s sober, that is. An especially appealing portion of his monologue involves the notion of whites having no color, while Hispanics have generous splashes of color everywhere, especially in their yards. Many of them, he insists, have upended, blue-painted bathtubs with the Virgin of Guadalupe inside.
There is no wolverine, by the way. Perhaps that will be clarified when the show returns (we presume) in its finished form. In the meantime, it’s charming, often knee-slappingly funny and well-written.
A Wolverine Walks into a Bar is a special two-weekends-only presentation of Classic Theatre. Final performances are 8 p.m. Friday & Saturday, April 8 & 9, and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 10. Call 210-589-8450.
Photo: Brenda Ladd
Classic Theatre: A Wolverine Walks into a Bar
New items in Jaston Williams’ bestiary