Lu Ann Hampton Laverty Oberlander Essay - Critical Essays

Preston Jones

Critical Context

Lu Ann Hampton Laverty Oberlander is the middle play in A Texas Trilogy. The first play in the trilogy, The Last Meeting of the Knights of the White Magnolia (pr. 1973, pb. 1976), and the last, The Oldest Living Graduate (pr. 1974, pb. 1976), are also set in Bradleyville, in 1962. Characters overlap or are mentioned in more than one play in the trilogy. Jones’s approach is essentially the same in all three plays: The characters talk about what has already happened. No decisions are made; no conflicts are revealed onstage. There is humor in the dialogue, and Jones has a good ear for small-town Texas speech.

Jones studied drama under Paul Baker at Baylor University and at Trinity University in San Antonio. Following Baker to Dallas, he worked as an actor at the Dallas Theater Center. After the success of the plays at the Center, where they were performed first on separate evenings, then in one marathon afternoon and evening, with a break for dinner, A Texas Trilogy had a successful limited engagement at the Kennedy Center, followed by an unsuccessful Broadway run. Jones returned to Dallas and in the brief time left to him wrote A Place on the Magdalena Flats (pr. 1976), Santa Fe Sunshine (pr., pb. 1977), Juneteenth (pr. 1979), and Remember (pr. 1979). Jones’s sudden death on September 19, 1979, was called “particularly ironic . . . , for his continuing theme concerned the impermanence of life and the effect of time on human aspirations.”

The individual plays in A Texas Trilogy continue to be performed in college theaters and summer stock, although Jones is remembered primarily as a regional writer with a gift for dialogue but a weakness in developing dramatic action.