For newly arrived college boy Steven, brothers Duke and Danny are the host family from hell: messy, macho hayseeds living in a trashy trailer. There’s only one bed, a mattress placed atop the kitchen table. What’s more, the trailer’s anchored in the rural plains of the Lone Star State, miles from anywhere. Steven needs to escape, but there are wild dogs outside, and his hosts are counting on Steven’s housing stipend. Each character also has something to hide, which transforms Texas
into a claustrophobic comedy about confinement, coercion and, later, confession. It’s a guy thing, dealing with 20-ish males almost surfing on testosterone, talking faster than they think and echoing each other’s words as if they were passing a baton in a relay. The brothers are hung up at such an early stage emotionally that a girlfriend and child are referenced only as “Pooh Bear” and “Baby Bear.”
Lofty sophistication it isn’t; one wonders if a male playwright could easily pass off this stuff nowadays, even as satire (though Sam Shepard won fame for the similar pair of feuding, food-fighting, dependent and dysfunctional brothers he created in True West in 1980). Texas, by Judy Soo Hoo, dates from the late 1990s and views macho brotherhood through the eyes of underpaid immigrant laborers.
Director Jerry Montoya sets a brisk pace, and it’s hard to take your eyes off the constant, appealing activity. Kale Braden’s set is cramped and quite effective. Actor Matthew Wu Robinson, with a sumo wrestler’s body and a booming voice, dominates many scenes as Duke with what seems like natural style; Peter Pascoal is Duke’s skinny, insecure sibling. Joseph Valdez Jr. takes his time revealing his cards as the visitor.