Matt de Rogatis has performed some of the theater’s biggest roles over the past decade, among them Hamlet, Richard III (alongside Austin Pendleton), and Brick from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. But there’s one role that he keeps coming back to: Roy from James McLure’s one-act play Lone Star, which has just begun an off-Broadway run at Theatre Row. For this production, he and director Joe Rosario have added characters and plot points from a companion play, Laundry and Bourbon. TheaterMania recently talked with de Rogatis about what audiences can expect from the revised play, what the cast brings to the show, and why he keeps coming back to Lone Star.
This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
You’ve performed the role of Roy a few times before. What is it about this play that keeps you coming back to him.
It’s not any one thing. To try to sum up why I’m so in love with this character and this play is hard. For starters, I’ve never had more fun in my life than when I’ve performed Lone Star. Roy is just such a great character with so many layers. I think it’s a great role, and being a huge fan of pro wrestling, I modeled him after “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Also, this play was introduced to me by my mentor, Bob Lamb. I was very close with him, and he passed away in 2019 just before our last production of Lone Star. When this production ends, I’ll probably find a way to do it again.
This version of Lone Star is a little different from others you’ve done because it incorporates a companion play, Laundry and Bourbon, into the plot. What’s new here?
There are a lot of new things. With permission from the James McLure Estate, we were granted access to an unpublished Lone Star screenplay. Now we’ve got some dialogue never heard before in the play. Also, Roy is a Vietnam war vet suffering from PTSD. We’re dialing into that angle a lot in this production, and we’ve got some really cool projections and comic book illustrations that help us tell that story. And then of course there’s the character of Elizabeth, Roy’s wife, in Laundry and Bourbon. We’ve pulled all her dialogue from that play and created several monologues from them. What this does is tell the audience the backstory in a way that’s very personal. If we presented Laundry and Bourbon as a whole, I think a lot of what Elizabeth is going through would get lost in conversation. By giving her her own act, so to speak, a sort of prologue to Lone Star, we get a real window into what is really going on, not only with her but with Roy as well, and how his PTSD from Vietnam is tearing them apart.
Tell me about your cast.
I love this cast. Ryan McCartan, who is a Broadway and Disney star, is Cletis. He’s the OTC as he says — the One True Cletis. Every night the audience is in stitches when he comes on. Then we have Dan Amboyer, from the TV shows Younger and Uncoupled. He plays my brother Ray. Dan has fully embodied the character of Ray and is a great scene partner. It’s really a transformative performance. Then of course there’s Ana Isabelle from Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story. She plays Elizabeth, Roy’s wife.
Ana wrote an original song for this production. How did that come about?
When we set out to stage this production, we wanted to find an actress who could deliver the monologues of Elizabeth and also perform some songs. Ana was the one. Her beautiful singing voice and Puerto Rican background also add interesting layers to Elizabeth. When we were talking with her about some music we were looking to perform in the show, our director, Joe Rosario, asked her if she wanted to sing one of her own original songs. And she does, entirely in Spanish. The song is called “Hey,” and it just fits. It all came about just playing around in early rehearsals.
You’re partnering with a couple of veterans organizations in conjunction with Lone Star.
Yes, over the years I’ve developed a great relationship with the McLure Estate and one thing I’ve always talked about with Corinne Walsh, who runs the estate, is if we ever did the show again, we wanted to try and do something for the veterans. So we partnered with Warrior Rising and VetLinks to speak about PTSD and other veteran issues on opening night. We want the production to continue to raise awareness and money for veterans’ issues.