BWW Review: LONE STAR is a Disjointed Country Concert and Play Rolled into One
Ruth Stage and the 13th Street Reparatory Company's Lone Star feels like seeing two shows in one evening. This revival of James McLure's play consists of a mock country concert by the all-female band The Chalks in the first act with the action of the play occurring in the second act. The entire thing is directed by Joe John Battista, but it feels like two separate pieces rather than one coherent and connected show. While The Chalks are an entertaining and talented group, the play itself leaves much to be desired.
The Chalks's set is a mock country concert for a band of three sisters singing, playing multiple instruments, and telling stories while dressed in bedazzled Western gear. They even involve the audience from bringing people up onstage to build instruments to quizzing the crowd about America. Mary Brienza, Kathryn Markey, and Leenya Rideout are all incredibly talented and carry off the strange premise through their chemistry with each other and the audience. It may take a few numbers to warm to it but the songs are delightfully funny and the women engaging enough to make it rather enjoyable.
It's after intermission when the actual action of the play kicks in that things go south. While the whole thing is set at a Texas bar in the 1970s with The Chalks as the act that is supposedly going on inside the bar while the play takes place out back, it feels completely unconnected. The play was first performed in 1979, but this revival borrows strongly from the 2017 production which also had Matt de Rogatis in the lead role.
Lone Star centers around Roy (Matt de Rogatis), a Vietnam veteran who is still struggling to adjust to life back in Texas. Roy loves three things: his wife, his country, and his car. He guzzles down Lone Star beers while he reminisces with his simple-minded brother, Ray (Chris Loupos), and even has a visit from the geeky kid he used to bully in school, Cletis (Michael Villastrigo). It's not a very nuanced depiction of recovery from war or PTSD and the plot seems to go nowhere for most of it.
The script is the show's weakest point; the plot is strange when it seems to exist at all, there are weird tangents and uncalled for coarseness, and a real conflict doesn't show up until almost the end. With this lack of action, one might expect a thoughtful discussion of some sort of philosophical issue at least, but this never occurs either. The characters are very two-dimensional and we're never really given a reason to care about any of them.
Rogatis has some good moments, but the other actors can't seem to keep up with him. Though with a script like this, it's difficult to make a character compelling. The presentation of rural Texas might be offensive to an actual Texan and there's some strange gender politics occurring as well.
The second act of the show seems to drag by as the play's plot feels underdeveloped. As entertaining as The Chalks are, the actual play achieves far too little for how long it lasts.