THEATER REVIEW: “True West” @ the Ghent Playhouse [Berkshire on Stage]

Photo by Adam Wilson-Hwang.
Photo by Adam Wilson-Hwang.

Review by Macey Levin

Sam Shepard is one of the country’s major playwrights having received nearly every award the American theatre and film industry has to offer. His major works include True West, The Tooth of Crime, Curse of the Starving Class, Buried Child (1979 Pulitzer Prize), Fool for Love, and A Lie of the Mind.

True West, first performed in 1980 at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco and currently at the Ghent Playhouse in Ghent through Sunday, June 4, has a structured plot unlike much of Shepard’s canon. In most of his other works, the story line is fractured with flashbacks and flash-forwards accompanied by extensive, often rambling monologues. This play utilizes a perceptible dramatic arc while incorporating many of Shepard’s preferred themes… the bane of family, the fabled West vs. the real West, the fallibility of the American Dream. Though there are very intense and violent scenes, True West is laced with numerous comic moments.

Taking place 40 miles outside Los Angeles, Austin (Kevin Kilb), a budding screenwriter with a suburban existence, is minding his mother’s house while she is on a trip to Alaska. His older brother Lee (Nathaniel Drake), an itinerant alcoholic small-time thief, suddenly appears after spending three months alone in the desert. Their bantering reflects their life-long contentious relationship. Lee tells his brother that he has a better idea for a film about the real West rather than Austin’s mundane love story.

After meeting Saul Kimmer (Rob Weber), a film producer who is interested in Austin’s script, Lee wheedles himself into Saul’s favor by relating his plot concept. As the acrimony between the brothers builds, an emotional undercurrent slowly leads to a reversal of attitudes. Lee is intent on writing his screenplay and Austin wants to forsake all has to live in the desert. The arrival of their mother (Stephanie Sloane) triggers a precipitous conclusion.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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