Gainesville playhouses stage COVID-19 medical drama and light summer musical

·3 min read

Lana Mae and Katie have had it up to here with cheatin’ hearts. Now they’re looking for fame and fortune Nashville-style, and hoping it’ll all come out in the wash.

But in New York City, the doctors, nurses and EMTs who stand on “The Line” are just hoping to keep body and soul together in the face of an exploding pandemic and mounting panic.

It is fair to say that the two plays premiering in Gainesville in June are worlds apart in tone, tempo and, certainly, subject matter.

Keeping with tradition, the Hippodrome is ending its season — and greeting the summer — with the cool, frothy “juke box” musical, “Honky Tonk Laundry,” opening June 4.

And on June 3, the Actors’ Warehouse will premier “The Line,” a stark “docudrama” drawn from the actual experiences of medical workers in 2020, as COVID-19 was extracting a deadly toll in the Big Apple.

“Honky Tonk Laundry” is an upbeat, two-woman show featuring the music of Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, Reba McEntire and other country favorites. It was written by Roger Bean, whose earlier musical “The Marvelous Wonderettes” was a previous Hipp summer offering.

“It’s summer. It’s time for some fun musicals,” says Stephanie Lynge, Hippodrome Artistic Director. "We’ve got our own little Thelma and Louise, only without the tragic ending. It’s about two ladies at the laundromat done wrong, all set to classic and contemporary country music.”

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True to its title, all of the action takes place in the Wishy Washy Washateria, owned by Lana Mae Hopkins. Her new employee, Katie, is on the rebound due to an unfaithful boy friend. And Lana Mae soon discovers that her own husband has been cheating as well.

What do to? Why turn the laundromat into a Honky Tonk of course.

“These ladies take control of their own lives and open up their own ‘Grand Old Laundry,’” Lynge said. “It’s a fun time for all. Ladies are going to want to bring their girlfriends here on girls’ night out.”

Kate Clement, from left, Saie Kurakula and Dennis Clement perform in the COVID-19 docudrama 'The Line' in June at the Actors Warehouse in Gainesville.
Kate Clement, from left, Saie Kurakula and Dennis Clement perform in the COVID-19 docudrama 'The Line' in June at the Actors Warehouse in Gainesville.

Meanwhile, the Actors’ Warehouse will be making history of sorts when it presents the first live performances of “The Line.” Because of the pandemic, previous performances of the play by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen were all live-streamed.

“The Line” reflects the experiences of seven health care workers struggling to come to terms with crowded emergency rooms, medical supply shortages and inadequate pre-pandemic policies in full melt-down.

“It really weaves all of these stories together — sweating in PPE (protective gear), worrying about infecting family and friends when you go home, coping with nursing home outbreaks, the lack of understanding by government and administrators,” said director Jan Cohen.

“By the end of it you are so involved with all of these people that you find yourself rooting for them. These people who, day after day, come to work even though they are afraid for themselves and their families.”

And lest you think “The Line” is so much ancient history, think again. Just this month, America recorded its one millionth Covid death. And The Sun, Coen adds, “told us that our mayor and two city commissioners” have tested positive for it.

For show times and ticket prices see the Hippodrome's web page and the web page for the Actors’ Warehouse.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Gainesville theaters stage 'The Line' and 'Honky Tonk Laundry' in June