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Theatre Review: True West



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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Three words sum up the premise of this play - bitter sibling rivalry. Just think of Cain and Abel.
 
Austin is Abel, the good boy -- an Ivy League education, a successful script writer in Hollywood.  Think of older brother Lee as Cain, a wild, hard-drinking drifter who's had some trouble with the law, now living alone in the desert.
 
And as brothers often do, these guys know how to push each other's buttons. In this scene, Lee is teasing about the easy life of a script writer, but almost flashes into violence.
 
Lee: "That's a dumb line. Do you get paid for dreaming up a line like that?"
Austin: "I can give you some money…"
Lee: "Don't you say that! Don't you ever say that to me!"
 
Against all odds, Lee gets a Hollywood producer interested in one of his disorganized tales as a movie. So these feuding brothers begin writing a screenplay - a loopy Western involving two men on a desperate chase.
 
Since Lee never learned to type, he dictates to brother Austin. And since this play is set in the 1970s, Austin uses a manual typewriter with a ribbon and paper.
 
Lee: "They take off after each other, straight into an endless black prairie. The sun's just coming down, and they can feel the night on their backs…"
 
The scene is drenched in alcohol, and soon the inhibitions drop away, rivalry takes over, and the play climaxes in a wild late-night demolition derby involving crumpled beer cans, golf clubs, corn flakes, electric toasters, and an rotary telephone.       
 
Lee: "Isn't there a pen or a pencil in this house. Who lives in this house anyway?
Austin: "Our mother!"
Lee: "Doesn't she have some? Isn't she a social person?"
(Laughter)           
 
This show is a highly theatrical, physical piece, with actors Jonathan Rhys Williams and Cole Alexander Smith pushing their performances to the limit, with a volatile mix of fury, food-fighting, and familial antagonism, mounted on a mythic level.
 
This is not a show for the kiddies or the faint of heart. But if you can handle the visceral confrontations, "True West" is wickedly funny, and by turns, very perceptive.  
 
Capital Stage's production of "True West" continues through April 22nd
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