By David Walters
Lone Star was first performed in New York in 1979 and is currently playing again at Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street) through December 23rd, 2023. Tickets can be purchased here.
The present Lone Star is a merge of two of James McLure‘s late 60s plays, Lone Star and Laundry and Bourbon, and a little bit of an unproduced screenplay. The scripts all deal with Texas rabble-rousing good-ol-boy, Roy (broodingly played by Matt de Rogatis), who is two years back from Vietnam and dealing with the changes that have happened to him through his experiences there, the fact that the small town of Maynard seems to have moved on without him, and the devolving of relationships and status that he once knew (“Want it to be how you remember it, not how it is.”).
The script of the three-character play Laundry and Bourbon has been deconstructed into an expositional monologue and put into the mouth of Roy’s wife Elizabeth. It is performed solo as an unnecessary prologue by the charming Ana Isabelle, who really doesn’t have that much to do so they gave her some lovely singing and guitar playing (Long Long Time) to highlight her talents. Although they have nothing to do with moving the story along. What is revealed in this difficult confession monologue (god bless you Ana) is a possible understanding for the audience of multiple infidelities that are in the play. She professes a profound comprehension of the inner struggles that have afflicted Roy since his return from Vietnam. Despite his current erratic behavior, although he also did these things before he left for his two year stint, she remains a steadfast presence, recognizing his below-the-surface dependency on her, and reciprocating it with genuine love. Her commitment is unwavering, and she always patiently awaits his return home looking for his car to come up the drive.
After the prologue, the play begins with an audio-visual montage (by Legacy Comix) of aspects of the Vietnam War, highlighted with snippets of classical late 60s-era music (Eve of Destruction, For What It’s Worth) that puts the audience in the spirit of the times.
Roy is fed up to the rafters with everything so much so that he performs a mock suicide. The party boys he used to hang out with have moved out of Maynard, or to prison, and all he has left upon his return is his ’59 pink Thunderbird, his wife who missed him in all kinds of ways, and his brother who’s a bit slow and couldn’t get drafted because of a football knee. His life has changed due to his time away in service. He refuses to drop the glory days of his past and he doesn’t know how to be any different than he was in high school, nor how to move forward from it.
The play is not so much about a returning soldier from the horrors of war, as it is about its stronger themes of brothers and clinging desperately to the glories of the past. The ultimate redemption of the script is that everything that defined Roy is lost throughout the course of the play and he comes to the realization that he has no choice before him but to accept it and move on. Luckily he has a wife who took him for who he was when they were first married and doesn’t expect anything else.
The highlights of this production are two terrific acting talents that stand out in their characterizations and make the play worth watching.
Dan Amboyer as brother Ray (he came in as a last-minute replacement, kudos to that), provides a solid grounding to his brother’s indulgent antics. His strength and presence allow Roy to bounce off the walls and still have a place to land. There’s a nod to Of Mice and Men in Lone Star, and Dan rises above the trap of simpleton and creates a depth and humanity to Ray that shows strength and understanding that far surpasses his older brother’s.
I wouldn’t call Ryan McCartan‘s characterization in the role of Cletis a scene-stealer. I would call it a play-stealer extraordinaire. Every character choice was precise, every behavior was profound in its simplicity, and every movement was planned to the nth degree that I could not stop watching him his many tics and enjoying his serio-comedic take that danced on the edge of over-the-top, but held itself carefully in check, achieving a perfect hilarious balance.
There’s a completely unnecessary comic-book type storyboard montage of the play showing us everything we have just witnessed that comes right before the last tie-everything-up scene. The play itself is a bit dated in its outlook on the world and the misogyny about what a woman is holds the script back from ever being something that will be produced very much.
Go to see two very good actors.
The production stars Ana Isabelle, Dan Amboyer, Ryan McCartan, and Matt de Rogatis.
The creative team: Matthew Imhoff (Set Design), Christian Specht (Lighting Design), Tomas Correa (Sound & Projection Design), Legacy Comix (Comic Book Illustrations), and Tollie Boone (Stage Manager).
The show runs approximately 110 minutes with no intermission.