The guys hanging out together in Steven Walters' get-down funny play Pluck the Day are old high school buds, now in their 30s and starting to go to seed. Duck, the former gridiron star (played with lovable stupidity by Clay Yocum), and brainy Bill (Chris LaBove) are worried about their pal Fred (Mike Schraeder), who's late coming home from a night of heavy drinking.
It's 10 a.m. on Sunday in their small Texas town and over the course of the day, beers will be pounded and secrets revealed. In the tight, hilarious production by Second Thought Theatre in their new space at Bryant Hall (next to Kalita Humphreys Theater), we get to know and love the trio, and to appreciate a fourth guy (Greg Schroeder), napping in a lawn chair and occasionally popping up to play his guitar or to utter the one-word answer that settles an argument. We also meet Fred's fiancee (Jenny Ledel), who Duck suspects is fooling around with Bill.
Over 80 minutes, Pluck the Day covers a lot of ground, and with genuinely fresh bits of wordplay between the fellas. "Aren't you late for work?" Bill asks Duck. Nope, says Duck, "It's Sunday. I don't have to be on the emu farm till Monday morning." A bit with Duck trying to fill out a crossword puzzle is like one of those great Andy and Barney front porch scenes from The Andy Griffith Show. The rhythm of the language is familiar and funny.
Walters debuted this play when Second Thought, founded by a group of ambitious Baylor drama grads in 2004, was still a young company. He's reworked it some and made it better. And now that Walters is in his 30s, he understands where his characters are in their lives at that age. Matthew Gray has directed it with a focus on keeping the conversations natural and low-key.
It's a good play with terrific performances from everyone in the cast, particularly LaBove, returning to acting after several years on the business side at Dallas Theater Center. With the dark, slim looks of Keanu Reeves, LaBove's the kind of actor you enjoy looking at first and then appreciate for his sensitive performance.
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Seize the opportunity to see Pluck the Day tonight at 7:30 p.m. It runs through February 26 at Bryant Hall. For tickets, call 866-811-4111.