Theatre Review

Truly Great 'True West' at Gamm

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American playwright Sam Shepard knows how to get your attention, grab you by the throat, and never let go until the lights go out. His “True West” was written for theatre companies that can provide great actors who can immerse themselves in their complex, cerebral and physical characters.

Director Tony Estrella has recruited the perfect pair to play brothers Lee and Austin, siblings who are quite different on the surface but share the same insecurities, fears and anxieties.

Austin (Steve Kidd) is a struggling playwright, trying to finish a draft and sell it to his agent (Richard Donelly). He is house-sitting and watering the plants at his mother’s suburban home. Brother Lee (Anthony Goes) shows up after apparently living alone in the desert. He survives by robbing houses of appliances.

Austin is a quiet, unassuming type who tolerates his intimidating, overbearing, know-it-all brother, who goes from bothering him to controlling him, both physically and mentally. To watch these two outstanding actors develop their relationship is mind-numbing.

Estrella has brought the set up close to the audience, making us feel like we are in the same room with the siblings, who are constantly in conflict. The conflict goes from one extreme to another, ending with a physical scene that is so realistic, you wonder how these men can do it every single night.

Lee, with his own delusions of grandeur, convinces Austin’s agent to play golf with him, and cons him into buying a true western play that he will dictate to his brother, who eventually gets hustled out of the picture.

At the crux of the play, it becomes obvious that the brothers are more alike than different. How this plays out shows the genius of Shepard and the astuteness of Goes and Kidd in interpreting both his writing and his stage directions.

Rae Mancini has a small role as their mother, who returns unexpectedly to the chaos taking place.

Both Mancini and Donelly add much to the play with their interpretation of their characters. But it is Kidd and Goes who will overwhelm you with their acting skills, right up to the physically exhausting end.

If you’ve seen the ads and the program cover, your interest should be curious about Goes holding a toaster and toast. It is one of the best moments of the play, which has so many great moments.

Amazingly, the play was written over 50 years ago and contains hardly any profanity, unlike the genre today that often relies too heavily upon it.

“True West” is at The Gamm, 1245 Jefferson Blvd. in Warwick, through May 5. Tickets begin at $44, and there’s not a bad seat in the intimate house (and they are comfortable, too). Call 723-4266 for reservations.

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