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Theatre for Change review of True West

True West: A true theatre experience

by Jenni Morin 

Sam Shepard’s Pulitzer Prize-winning True West, now playing at the Tobin Center, is a testament to the power of of an honest and simple story. AtticRep’s production highlights the script with incredible talent and attention to detail in its technical execution. True West allows audiences to reflect on their capabilities and tolerance for life-altering change.

Andrew Thornton and Rick Frederick in True West
at the Tobin Center. Photo by Siggi Ragnar.

A successful Hollywood screenwriter, Austin attempts to pitch his latest script to a producer amidst the distractions of his estranged uninvited brother. When Lee convinces the producer to run with his simple western instead, Austin becomes unhinged, catapulting the brothers into opposite roles. The action unfolds as each tries to cope with their newly dealt hands and reveals chaos, sibling rivalry and violence.

Andrew Thornton as Lee is an invading force of unkempt burping, fully committed to the disgusting vegabond brother. Rick Frederick as Austin may flop and flail in his exasperation, but he is consistently the tightly wound brother who has lost his pedestal. As the producer, Guy Schaafs is appropriately fake and nearly emotionally leveled. While Rita Crosby as Mom doesn’t quite match the volume or boisterousness of her sons, she brings a welcome dose of humor to a tense scene.

Director David Connelly kept the reality of the script while adding humor, movement and plenty of telling looks executed perfectly by his cast. Production Designer Martha Penaranda brought the show together with great technical details. Robin Crews’ lighting at times felt haphazard, but colored the mood well throughout. Costumes were on point and well aged, especially the stains on Lee’s shirt and trench coat thanks to Angelina Mata. Even the pre-show music was chosen with purpose by Jeremiah Tuetsch while the sound design brought the show to life. Ed Diaz created an immaculately detailed set, although the entire layout of the house seemed somewhat of a mystery based on the staged section. Set dressings were important characters, especially the house plants, as with Rex Harder’s props.

True West examines the human need for identity. Without it, Shepard asks if we become someone else or if we are just lost. Shepard also pokes fun at the frills and assumptions of Hollywood and blockbuster movies, making it even more obvious that this well written script is a masterpiece in its simplicity. Marked as a tragicomedy, this gradual descent into desperation begs audiences to examine the characteristics which define identity and if those are purely oppositions to those well-defined, self-confident individuals or counterparts.

The AtticRep production of True West exemplifies theatre as a craft without the unnecessary bells, whistles and gimmicks. True West is a quality theatrical experience boasting unparalleled talents and production value.

True West runs at the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theatre at the Tobin Center through February 8 with performances at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information and to reserve tickets, visit atticrep.org.



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