The year is 1972. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an unknown issue developing in Vietnam veterans. Upon his return from the war, Roy (Matt de Rogatis) discovers both he and his life have changed in Jame’s McLure’s Lone Star, an off-Broadway play that encompasses a man slowly going insane from the shock of the things he’s seen while clinging to his past.
The short play gets right to the point as Roy, drunk on his favorite beer (Lone Star) heads to the backyard of a Texas bar and immediately acknowledges the stars in the sky, one of the recurring motifs in the one-hour show. We are then introduced to his brother Ray (Chris Loupos) and for a brief moment, Cletis (Greg Pragel) – a friend of Ray who Roy despises for seemingly no particular reason. As Ray and Roy chat and reminisce about Roy’s glory days, we quickly realize Roy is not nearly as stable as he claims to be while brother Ray is dealing with his own issues.
The acting is impeccable. De Rogatis’s portrayal of an alcoholic post-war victim really hits home as his energy translates well across the stage. His use of facial expressions and body language carry the character convincingly as you continue to feel worse for the mood-swinging Roy every minute. Loupos shares a unique chemistry with de Rogatis as you can immediately tell the two characters are brothers, as well as which is older. Loupos also makes you believe Ray’s concern for his brother and his attempts to make everything seem alright while holding back the truth. Together, they work very well. Pragel also provides a somber comic relief in Cletis, who simply wants to be accepted by the macho Roy.
The play also provides a simple, yet relatable premise while making fantastic use of what little time the actors have. From the mcguffin in Roy’s 1959 pink Thunderbird to his marital struggles to Ray and Cletis’ secrets, the elements are peppered in at the right moments where nothing feels forced. The dialogue feels real enough to suggest that similar conversations have happened many times in reality during this particular period, and even now with current war/military vets. Even the southern accents are done to a T (for Texas, that is).
Additionally, Lone Star also has a series of motifs sprinkled thoughout the presentation. Stars are a metaphor for Roy (indicated by his beverage of choice) and everyone he’s ever known and loved (the stars in the sky). Another is Hank William’s 1953 classic “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”
The one issue with Lone Star is it’s ending. Despite all the turmoil and build, the play tries to end on a positive note. This is not only confusing as there is no real resolve to Roy’s growing problems, but not entirely believable unless Roy really is that drunk (which is plausible). However, the audience will be left with many questions and the desire to see the true aftermath of Roy and Ray’s night out.
At the end of the night, Lone Star is a quick, yet large dose of drama with a great cast and script. Despite a light hiccup of a finale, you have a solid show that makes a strong brew out of the limited hops, grains and barley it’s given.
Lone Star is moving off-Broadway to The Triad May 6th and 13th. Tickets can be purchased at DrinkBeerRaiseHell.com.