Bruce Willis, casting directors’ beloved go-to action movie hero, wasn’t born into stardom. In fact, Willis’ journey to professional acting started with Montclair State University’s reputable drama program. Now, plenty of Willis-hopefuls enroll in acting classes to mimic his path to full-time thespianism.
Professor Michael Allen’s Acting II class showcased their production of James McLure’s one-act comedy, “Lone Star” on April 22.
The show begins with Roy (Evan Smith) drunkenly counting stars behind a small-town Texas bar, enjoying beers by himself until his younger brother Ray (Michael Williams) joins him. The two drink beer together while they reflect on Roy’s high school glory days before he served in Vietnam. There’s plenty of talk about sex, drunken escapades and Ray’s friend/Roy’s nemesis, Cletis (Jeffrey Schnoor).
First impressions are everything, and the beginning of this play lacked the energy that it so desperately needed. Both Smith and Williams were evidently uncomfortable trying to stay in character and maintain the heavy southern twang that the script called for.
At the same time, there were multiple issues with comedic timing. Jokes that could have been very successful fell flat as a result of poor delivery. Unfortunately, these inconsistencies would follow them throughout the show.
At moments where the show engendered more audience response, Smith and Williams grew more comfortable in their roles, which made for a stronger performance from both of them. Williams especially played the part of the lovable goofball baby brother very well.
Still, once Cletis was introduced, the show really took off. Schnoor brought the energy up, partially because Ray’s blind hate of Cletis was a hit with the audience, and also because Schnoor didn’t hold back in the same way that the other two did.
Here’s the thing: Lone Star is not realistic. It’s not necessarily thought-provoking or meaningful. It’s just supposed to be funny. That’s why seeing the actors hold back was so frustrating. They were trying to humanize their characters too much, when the script is written best for caricatures. When Cletis lashed out, Schnoor didn’t hesitate to yell as loud as he could, which was very refreshing.
In a similar manner, blocking was a total let-down in “Lone Star.” There were stretches of time where Schnoor’s back was turned completely to the audience. Ray and Roy were seated so awkwardly sometimes that it showed in their interactions between one another. Since these are students studying intermediate acting, they should know how tremendously important blocking is. It was a huge distraction and a major disappointment.
As the show progressed, it was clear that the actors grew more and more into their characters. In fact, Ray and Roy even became a dynamic duo, showing really harmonious comedic chemistry. After a certain point, the show ran very smoothly. Despite the abrupt ending, Smith and Williams were able to make the audience feel, if just for a second, that it was completely normal — as if they too were drinking beers behind the bar alongside them.