THEATER REVIEW : A Dose of Social Consciousness Deep in the Heart of Texas : Members of a women's club are dragged into the 20th Century in Del Shores' 'Daughters of the Lone Star State.'

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Del Shores' best-known comedy, "Daddy's Dyin' . . . Who's Got the Will?" was abroad satire of life in the deep South among a family of what might be termed "trailer trash," even if they weren't living in a trailer. Shores' follow-up, "Daughters of the Lone Star State," features a somewhat snootier rung on the class ladder and brings in a bit of social consciousness. In the Plaza Players' current production, it's the (more or less) serious part that works best.

The titular organization is a group of women in a small Texas town dedicated to good works: Their oath reads, in part, "as a member of the privileged, I will help the underprivileged, whether the person is white, colored or anybody else."

With a membership that's rapidly shrinking as Daughters leave or simply die, the group is in a financial crisis. The play takes place during the course of one meeting, in which several members find themselves pulled more than a little reluctantly into the 20th Century.

First, former member Vergie Hopkins returns after a long absence: She's a troublemaker and a pain, but the Daughters need her past-due dues. But before she arrives, she sends a prospective new member, the former Ima Jean Winkler, who married a ( gasp !) Mexican. But dealing with that isn't preparation for the arrival of Sharon Johnson, daughter of Darlene Parsons' longtime maid.

Hilarity, and a bit of social commentary, ensue.

For those who feel that many of the battles against such overt prejudice have been fought and won, "Daughters of the Lone Star State" (which takes place in 1992) may seem awfully out of date, but the women's struggle is handled nicely enough in the second act. (Act 1 is just silliness, character establishment).

Director Michael Maynez has assembled a cast composed largely of (as is appropriate to the play) women of A Certain Age, with, it appears, varying degrees of theatrical experience. Some were still having trouble with their lines at Saturday's opening, but several are as appealing as can be, and in some cases the forgetfulness and hesitation can be considered part of the character.

Susan G. Cook, Sharon Reinhold, Lela E. Baker, Jean Nussman, Claire Wilson, Olivia Hunter, Lucile Ferrie and Linda Hershman portray the Daughters, with Nussman again playing the character she portrayed in the Plaza Players' production of "Daddy's Dyin'." Betty Taffert plays the maid, Dawn V. Shreve her daughter, and Connie Ramos the young woman with the Mexican-American husband.

Details

* WHAT: "Daughters of the Lone Star State."

* WHERE: Plaza Players Theatre, 34 N. Palm St. (in the Livery Arts Center), Ventura.

* WHEN: Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., through Nov. 5.

* COST: $10 all performances. On Wednesdays only, the second ticket is free.

* ETC.: For reservations or further information, call 643-9460.

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