Go True West
True West, by Sam Shepard, is a play about two brothers: Austin, a screenwriter; and Lee, a drifter. When the play begins, Austin is housesitting for his mother, hoping to complete a new script in relative peace and quiet. Lee visits, interrupting Austin's tranquility, and when Austin's agent rejects his script in favor of a half-baked idea from Lee, the play erupts into a study of sibling rivalry, self-doubt, reinvention of self, and several other concepts, all of which Shepard handles with passion and comedy.
The one place where True West speaks clearly is in a scene in which the lines are not spoken at all. The set consists of two wooden chairs on either side of a small wooden end table. Austin, standing behind the table, takes three props from the end table, two plastic cups and a Rubik's Cube, and places them on his chair. He sets each down with a satisfying tap, in rhythm. Cup....cup....cube. He then moves them back to the table, again with the same rhythm. Cup....cup....cube. This continues. Cup....cup....cube. Cup....cup....cube. Cup....cup....SWIPE. And Lee has taken the cube, right on the beat. The act is stunning in its simplicity, and resonates perfectly with True West. Lee is, in the truest sense of the words, interfering with Austin's rhythm. As the scene goes on, Lee continues to taunt Austin, taking increasingly greater risks to undermine his work, and ultimately Austin's very foundations. It is a remarkable interpretation, and it explains why this show is based on True West rather than anything else.
That scene depends heavily on split-second timing, and it would not work if Fria and Simonetti were not expert physical comedians. They are, and they tack on a gratuitous piece of classic physical comedy at the end of the show. After all their fun with True West, Fria and Simonetti "clock out" and present one more offering: a recreation of the dinner scene from Buster Keaton's The Scarecrow. The scene, in which two men share a meal while the condiments are suspended above the table by strings, requires perfect timing and collaboration. Fria and Simonetti have it, deftly swinging each bottle and catching each other's throws with the greatest of ease. It is a beautiful recreation of some very difficult choreography. The fact that it has nothing to do with True West - relying, as it does, on a spirit of cooperation that is antithetical to the characters of Austin and Lee - does not make it any less delightful.
The Future Stars of Hollywood and Associates presents Go True West, created by Ben Simonetti, Joe Fria, Mami Arizono, and Anthony Sandoval, based on True West by San Shepard. Directed by Anthony Sandoval; Produced by FSHA. Stage Manager Kelly Doherty; Costume Design by Paule le Masson and Kara Feely; Sound Design by Eric Snodgrass; Lighting design by Michael Franco; Graphic Design by D Morris; Camera Operator G. J. Echternkamp.
Go True West plays at the Lillian Theater in Hollywood on Tuesdays through November 20, 2001. Admission is $10. For reservations, call (323) 221-6656.
Photo by D Morris