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Jaston Williams brings 'Cowboy Noises' to the Long Center

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

Jaston Williams loves, loves, loves to talk theater.

All theater, any theater, theater big and small, past and present — and not just the upcoming re-staging of his one-man play, "Cowboy Noises," which opens next week at the Long Center.

Over a big mug of coffee at Dominican Joe's recently, the co-creator and co-star of the popular "Greater Tuna" plays posits that just maybe Tennessee Williams' "Streetcar Named Desire" is his favorite play of all time. And that he think Washington, D.C., is an important theater city. Williams also mentions that he would have loved to have seen the recent production of Austin Shakespeare's "The Tempest," but years ago, he was cast in "the worst production of the 'The Tempest' ever" in summer stock in West Virginia. "That production ruined my ability to ever see 'The Tempest' again without having bad flashbacks," says Williams in his melodious West Texas drawl.

But Stephen Sondheim's "Sunday in the Park With George," the musical about an imagined version of Impressionist painter Georges Seurat engrossed in thought while painting? "I could see any production of that show anywhere, any time," Williams says. "I love that it explores the artist, by himself, creating."

There's really only one other topic the veteran Texas actor and playwright loves to talk about more than theater: his 13-year-old son.

"I've never felt so lucky in my life," says Williams, of his current family home life. Several years ago, he and partner Kevin Mooney adopted a young boy from China. And just as the "Tuna" plays have always mined the eccentric characters and oddball behavior Williams experienced during his upbringing in small town West Texas, so does "Cowboy Noises" mine the people and stories of his life now.

Ultimately, "Cowboy Noises" is Williams' endearing yet outrageously comic exploration of father-son dynamics — from his relationship with his conservative father to the loss years ago of his adult son in a tragic car accident to his journey to China to adopt. Throughout the play, sound and language and the sound of language filter in and out as an important metaphor for how fathers and sons come to love and understand each other.

Williams premiered "Cowboy Noises" two years ago at the Paramount Theatre, the historic venue where so many times the "Tuna" plays have been staged. (Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Williams and his co-star and co-creator Joe Sears will bring "A Tuna Christmas" back to the Paramount.)

With the current production of "Cowboy Noises" at the Long Center's intimate 250-seat Rollins Studio Theatre, Williams is looking forward to playing off the reactions of the audience.

"In a theater that small, you sure know if you hit or not right away," says Williams, using theater lingo for whether or not comic timing succeeds. "But mostly you just get to feed off the audience's reactions, and that's a real pleasure."

After all, it's all about the theater.

jvanryzin@statesman.com; 445-3699

'Cowboy Noises'

When: Oct. 6-17. Visit website for times.

Where: Rollins Studio Theatre, Long Center for the Performing Arts, 701 W. Riverside Drive

Cost: $34–$39

Information: 474-5664, www.thelongcenter.org