Tuesday, February 8, 2011

TRUE WEST • HotCity Theatre

Why is it that so much interesting stuff always seems to happen in the kitchen?  This is where the sibling rivalry of HotCity's first offering of their 2011 season, Sam Shepard's TRUE WEST, takes place.

There are these 2 brothers -- Austin (Scott McMaster), is a screenwriting family man who's watching his mom's house while she's on vacation in Alaska.  Then we've got Lee (Kevin Crowley), Austin's older brother, a wandering burglar who has dropped in to… "check out the neighborhood".  Austin is trying to put the finishing touches on a screenplay that he's scheduled to present to Saul (Alan Knoll), a fancy Hollywood producer, and Lee's visit is unexpected, and he's a bit in the way.  As Lee alternates between Pabst Blue Ribbon and Jim Beam, he antagonizes his little brother and his "white picket fence" life, while Austin is just trying to pacify the more intimidating Lee, while at the same time, trying not to piss him off.

Each brother represents a different kind of station in life, and during the course of the play, we get to discover how they see each other, and how Lee secretly covets the "quiet suburban silence", and how Austin longs to be unfettered out in the open Mojave Desert.  Lee just happens to drop in on Austin and Saul during their meeting -- stolen t.v. under his arm -- just as they've come to an agreement on the screenplay Austin has written, and ends up taking over the conversation.  He convinces Saul to play a few holes of golf with him the next morning -- much to the embarrassment of his kid brother.  When Saul decides to drop Austin's love story in favor of a goofy "real life western" that Lee pitches to him on the golf course, there's a role reversal that takes place as each brother takes a walk in the other's shoes.  This transition is really cool -- Austin develops a wild look in his eye as Lee becomes focused pecking away behind the typewriter.

Kevin Crowley (Lee) and Scott McMaster (Austin).
 Photo credit:  John Lamb
The night I went, there was a small crowd -- Superbowl weekend and all.  I would imagine that it would be a challenge for a cast to put it all out there for such a small audience, but boy did they deliver!  Kevin Crowley and Scott McMaster as the brothers were very engaging and convincing in their roles and their "transitions".  Really good those two.  Alan Knoll as the Hollywood producer and Nancy Lewis as Mom made the most of their smaller roles, and the comfortable homey set and precise lighting by Jim Burwinkel, along with the sound design of Joe Pini nicely keep you in the mood of the play.  Scott Breihan's costumes were simple, but that's all they needed to be, and they clearly distinguished the characters.  I don't know a lot about Sam Shepard's plays, but under Doug Finlayson's consummate direction, this play serves up a really interesting look at more than just sibling rivalry, but a kind of representation of two halves -- with one half wanting what the other has, and the pros and cons of both.  You know... duality.  Check it out!  It'll be at the Kranzberg until the 19th.

Where do the toasters come in?  Well, you'll just have to go see it now, won't you...


Written by Sam Shepard
Directed by Doug Finlayson
Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Blvd.
through February 19 | tickets: $20 - $25
Performances Thursday and Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3pm and 8pm, Sunday at 7pm

Kevin Crowley* (Lee), Scott McMaster (Austin),  Alan Knoll* (Saul) and Nancy Lewis (Mom).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Scenic/lighting design by Jim Burwinkel; costume design by Scott Breihan; sound design by Joseph T. Pini.


  1. Good review; I especially like the end. Mine's posted at V.V. and KDHX, and on my profile page. I'll probably circulate it once now. Let me know what you think.

  2. Ha! I love the beginning of yours. You're so thorough. I haven't found it on KDHX yet.

  3. "Why is it that so much interesting stuff always seems to happen in the kitchen? ..." well, it's the centre of the house. So the hero's journey ( ) would pass through it multiple times.