McLure, James

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McLURE, James

PERSONAL: Born in LA. Education: Southern Methodist University, B.F.A.

ADDRESSES: Home—Venice, CA. Agent—c/o Dramatists Play Service, 440 Park Ave. S, New York, NY 10016; Chappell Plays Ltd., 129 Park St., London W1Y 3FA, England.

CAREER: Playwright and actor. Member of Lion Theatre Company; University of Montana, writing instructor at The Colony (developmental workshop for writers).

AWARDS, HONORS: Bryan Family Foundation Award for Drama, 2003.



Lone Star: A Comedy in One Act (produced on Broadway, 1979; produced in London, England, 1980), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1980.

Pvt. Wars: A Comedy in One Act (produced on Broadway, 1979; produced in London, England, 1980), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1980.

Laundry & Bourbon: A Comedy in One Act (produced in Ashland, OR, 1980; produced in London, England, 1986), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1981.

1959 Pink Thunderbird (includes Lone Star and Laundry & Bourbon), produced in Princeton, NJ, 1980; produced in London, England, 1989.

The Day They Shot John Lennon (produced in Princeton, NJ, 1983; produced in London, England, 1990), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1984.

Thanksgiving (two acts), produced in Louisville, KY, 1983.

Wild Oats: A Romance of the Old West (adaptation of the play by John O'Keeffe; produced in Los Angeles, CA, 1983), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY)1985.

Lahr and Mercedes, produced in Denver, CO, 1984.

The Very Last Lover of the River Cane (one act), produced in Louisville, KY, 1985.

Max and Maxie (produced in New York, NY, 1989), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1989.

Ghost World, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1995.

Iago, produced in North Carolina, 2000.

Contributor to Prima Facie, 1987: An Anthology of New American Plays, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, (Denver, CO), 1987. Screen and television writing includes Sangre, starring Holly Hunter and John Lithgow; Kingfisher, starring John Goodman and directed by Thomas Sclarnme; Quick, starring Jeff Fahey; and Reckless, starring Aidan Quinn.

SIDELIGHTS: James McLure, a playwright and actor, writes short plays with small casts that are often set in a single location. Chris Jones, writing in the Chicago Tribune, commented that the popularity of McLure's plays can be attributed to several factors, in particular, to their small casts and single settings. "His characters are not only assailable by young actors," commented Jones, "but they tend to be the kind of wacky, hardboiled folk into which youthful performers love to sink their collective teeth." A contributor to Contemporary Dramatists wrote: "That he is an actor as well as a writer contributes to McLure's strengths. These include a sharp eye for character, a gifted ear for regional idiomatic speech, and an uncommon comic flair that extends to the examination of American myths and mores."

Lone Star: A Comedy in One Act is one such play—a humorous production that depicts Roy, a returned Vietnam vet and wayward husband, drinking bottles of Lone Star beer in his Lone-Star-state hometown. During the two years since his return, Roy tries to recapture life before Vietnam but bemoans the fact that he cannot seem to "get anything started." Another of McLure's one-act plays, the humorous Laundry & Bourbon: A Comedy in One Act centers on Roy's wife, Elizabeth, who is visited by her talkative yet pleasant friend Hattie. Enjoying a brief respite from her rambunctious children, Hattie sips bourbon and helps an unusually distant Elizabeth fold laundry. Eventually, Hattie breaks through Elizabeth's stoic demeanor and learns that Roy left two days earlier in his pink Thunderbird without a word. In both plays, McLure uses several one-liners and comic episodes that become therapy for the protagonists' emotional pain. While Ryan McKittrick commented in the Boston Globe that "the obviousness of many of these jokes adds to the overall emotional, intellectual, and structural superficiality of the plays," he noted that McLure avoids "contrived, tidy resolutions," as neither Roy nor Elizabeth remains without residual grief. "Both plays suggest that accepting the persistence of emotional distress can be a means of coping with that pain," wrote McKittrick.

Pvt. Wars: A Comedy in One Act, set in the 1970s, takes place in the lounge of a veteran's hospital where three returning Vietnam vets from culturally different backgrounds are recovering from wounds that appear to be primarily psychological. Reviewing the play for the Chicago Tribune, Chris Jones believed that while most of the comedy comes from the protagonists' cultural differences, the drama is "subtextual…. That's what makes [the play] trickier than it first appears."

When reviewing The Day They Shot John Lennon, T. H. McCulloh wrote in Back Stage West that, unlike Pvt. Wars, which he described as "neatly formed and touching," this play is an "insignificant piece…. It looks as though it might have been scribbled on a rainy Saturday afternoon." The reviewer felt the scenes are disconnected and that John Lennon is only an incidental part of the entire play. However, a Contemporary Dramatists reviewer stated that "McLure credibly portrays contemporary urbanites with point and poignancy, demonstrating that his territory goes beyond the Southwest."

In Thanksgiving two unhappily married couples and two mismatched singles gather for Thanksgiving in a New Jersey suburb. Boston Globe reviewer Kevin Kelly found the humor flat and the play filled with noisy squabble, calling the battles between wives and husbands "sound without fury." In The Very Last Lover of the River Cane, a one-act, country-and-western-style play set in a barroom, Kelly described the protagonist, River Cane, as a "right good lookin' woman who got away." While praising the acting and staging of the performance, Kelly commented: "this excellence is absent in the material itself."

Iago, on the other hand, received critical acclaim from Kevin Johnson on Talkin' "Intrigue, passion, adultery, jealousy, and betrayal fuel the fire behind this play," Johnson wrote. Iago differs from most of McLure's plays in that the action takes place in twenty-nine locations. The plot centers around husband-and-wife actors Anthony Roland and Vivacity Wilkes, who so impress up-and-coming Australian actor Peter Finney that he suggests the three of them act in a production of English dramatist William Shakespeare's Othello. The couple agrees—Vivacity is falling for Finney's charms—and the trio is directed by a British man, Sir Basil Drill. The play follows the characters—whose lives parallel those of the protagonists in Shakespeare's tragedy—grouped in twos and threes; backstage, in pubs, and during rehearsals; through thirty years of stage and movie careers. "This may not be Shakespeare," commented Johnson, "but James McLure has created a piece that can be timeless in its own right."



Contemporary Dramatists, sixth edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.


Back Stage, August 26, 1994, Amy Reiter, review of Pvt. Wars: A Comedy in One Act, p. 40.

Back Stage West, November 1, 2001, T. H. McCulloh, review of The Day They Shot John Lennon, p. 12.

Boston Globe, April 10, 1983, Kevin Kelly, review of Thanksgiving, p. 1; March 27, 1985, Kelly, review of The Very Last Lover of the River Cane, p. 70; September 19, 2001, Ryan McKittrick, review of Laundry & Bourbon: A Comedy in One Act and Lone Star: A Comedy in One Act, p. C6.

Chicago Tribune, August 2, 2000, Chris Jones, review of Pvt. Wars, p. 2.

online, (September 28, 2004), Kevin Johnson, review of Iago.*

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