The Gamm Theatre is closing its last show for this season with the late Sam Shepard’s “True West” a much presented and often praised look into the American family when things are definitely not going well. Bill Gale, performing arts critic for The Public's Radio, says it’s a terrific production even though different from others he has seen.
Directed by the company’s leader, Tony Estrella, this show is a hard-hitting, even slashing, look at this perhaps Sam Shepard’s best play.
“True West” is set entirely in a rather nice, rather country side place outside of Los Angeles. In it live one mother and one son. There’s another son who arrives when Mom has gone to Alaska. The brothers, then, are alone, but certainly not together.
One, Austin, is a writer trying hard, even desperately, to make his way in the movies. The other, Lee, is a wacko who spends his time hanging out, not doing much but believing he’s a cool dude. A battle between the two is inevitable and in this production it’s all carried out big time.
Lee loads on Austin, in talk, in drinking and especially in fighting. You rarely ever see two actors battling so often, so frightfully. Actor Anthony Goes makes Lee a winning loser. He might win the fights but you are sure he will lose in the long time Steve Kidd as Austin at first seems intellectual, a guy who will succeed, sometime, at least.
Both actors are superlative in their drive, and their fears. And this production has fine other actors. Richard Donelly is maliciously strong as a film producer who will be your best friend, at least until he nails another, better deal. And Rae Mancini is wonderful, skipping out on the boys when they need her most. She’s a mother who could not be worse in a tough situation.
All of this is done with real passion. It manages to show clearly that both men are hugely insecure. And that is just what makes “True West” a play that has interested theatergoers for decades. Shepard’s “Pie” as one reviewer put it, is what all the fuss was about.
This particular “True West” is more driven by being about this one family and its difficulties, rather than reaching out to the greater world. And, in my opinion, that’s just fine.
The Gamm's “Pie” merges power, faults and needs, beautifully. It’s not necessary to go for the major specialty every time.
This “True West” is filled with anger and fun, drive and failure.
In its two hours or so we in the audience are brought to thinking a lot, wondering what's up all too often, and, laughing out loud frequently. It’s a worthwhile show to see, to let you make your own opinion of the force of one of the best theatrical works in decades.
"True West" continues at the Gamm Theatre in Warwick through May 5th. Bill Gale reviews theater and dance for The Public’s Radio.