Saturday Night Special

Annabelle Weenick's Saturday Night in Uncertain is stuffed with the sort of East Texas good ole boys who would actually buy one of those singing largemouth bass toys at Eckerd's. Predictable as their brand of beer, the twang-talking fellas, who hang around Lou's Fun-n-Fish Lodge, also manage to create enough commotion to spark a likable night of theater in this world premiere production running at Actors Theatre of Houston.

Lou's 36-year-old "little" sister, Lila Jean (Angela Laux), is getting married, and everybody has to poke a nose into the preparations, even though it's mostly Lou's shebang. She has planned the whole thing, from the seed pearls on Lila Jean's gown to the fried-shrimp rehearsal dinner. In fact, Lou (Blanca Flores) has been handling her sister's entire life ever since their folks died in a fiery car crash 28 years ago.

Flores's sturdy-shouldered Lou is the kind of gal anybody would lean on in times of trouble. She keeps her head level through most any crisis. When her sexy, husband-killing barmaid Joyce (Sara Simmonds) burns up the kitchen while deep-frying hush puppies, Lou calmly puts out the blaze. When Lila Jean bawls because she's got the jitters, Lou's there to give her a hug. Seems like nothing can rumple this woman. Until Murphy (Tom Pilurs) walks through the door.

Wearing aviation sunglasses and tight-fitting jeans, the blond ne'er-do-well with the shy, toothy grin and the long, easy stride ambles into the lodge and straight into Lou's arms. He disappeared a while back, and traveled all the way to the metropolis of Shreveport, Louisiana, but now has returned just in time for Lila Jean's wedding. While the ruckus he stirs up with his shit-kicking boots isn't exactly novel, the tangle web of lies that eventually unravels is enough to hold these standard Texas types together.

Co-directors Weenick and George Brock add ingenious touches to the production. Sweat drips from the working men's faces every time they come in from the heat, making the lonely Southwestern flatland outside the bar seem all to real. The able cast has sussed out some amusing moments in the predictable script, especially Simmonds, who's all high-pitched wiggles; she struts around in butt-high cutoffs and white fringed boots, every cowboy's dream, if it weren't for the fact that the poor girl can't do anything.

All this might sound as exciting as a musty old hat, but the smart production makes tromping over familiar ground as easy and fun as guzzling a couple of longnecks on a hazy summer day.

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Lee Williams