Theatre Mirror Reviews - "True West"

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note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Larry Stark

"True West"

by Sam Shepard
Directed by Tito Juarez

Set Design by Dave Sheppard
Lighting Design by Brian Masters
Costume Design by Gregg Thomas
Sound Design by Dave Sheppard
Props & Set Dressing by Diane Seligman/Gail Nessman
Assistant Director Michelle Gillis
Stage Manager John Murtagh

Austin..........Tom Berry
Lee.....Russell Rocheleau
Saul Kimmer....David Wood
Mom..........Sandi McNeal

Acme Theater Productions will enter Part of "True West" in the Eastern Massachusetts Community Theatre festival this year, and may go on to greatness there. Sam Shepard's play is almost a set of acting exercizes --- a celebration of "brotherly hate" --- showing off the talents of this excellent cast and company. The uncut version will play for another two week-ends in Maynard.

The setting is south-east California, where coyote's can occasionally be heard outside ganging up on house-pets while Russell Rocheleau and Tom Berry duel it out in their mother's kitchen. Berry plays the Ivy League graduate polishing a screen-play, while Rocheleau is a darkly menacing professional house-breaker convinced his story-idea for a "true" western would make a better film. David Wood plays the suave, manicured producer who green-lights one brother's story expecting the other to write the screen play.

Ever seen two fighting-fish in the same bowl?

Shepard's later, larger plays are almost purely abstract conflicts in which now one, now another character seems first to be moving in for the kill, then suddenly tripped onto the defensive. Not the prize but the fighting for it seems to motivate the action. And here, as a kind of variation, the choice of which story becomes a movie turns more on a golf bet than quality.

In the course of this two- and sometimes three-way duel, who's best at competing is most important. The thief takes pride in entering any house and leaving by the front door, sneering "You couldn't even steal a toaster!" at his intellectual brother. Is it any wonder the two, locked into completing an entire screen-play in three days, fill Dave Sheppard's initially immaculate set with the scattered remains of countless beer- and Jim beam-drinking contests? or that one of the writers takes deliberate care in demolishing a typewriter with a golf club? (Block That Metaphor!)

Probably the most surprising character in the play, however, is Mom, played by Sandie McNeal. Returning from a trip to find not one but both brothers back home, her only concern is restoring order. "Don't kill your brother," she comments, airily. "If you're going to fight, do it outside."

"Team Acme" takes pride in doing the best possible job in every aspect of their productions, and they enjoy competing. Expect exciting things at EMACT the week-end of 25 May this year... But see the entire play before then!


"True West" (April - 10 May)
ArtSpace Maynard, 61 Summer Street, MAYNARD MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide