Times-Argus (Review #1)
Lost Nation’s ‘True West’ viciously funny
By Jim Lowe, Times-Argus Arts Editor
– “Lost Nation’s production, directed by
Gregg W. Brevoort, thoroughly enjoys Shepard’s delicious viciousness,
and the characters’ hilariously uncomfortable interaction”
MONTPELIER – Sam Shepard’s “True West” can be
hilariously funny but it sure isn’t nice. And Lost Nation Theater’s
professional production, which opened Thursday at City Hall Arts Center,
seeks out every deliciously nasty moment.
Shepard’s plays are said to be marked by wild
humor, grotesque satire, myth, and the sparse haunting language of
Western movies in evoking an off-kilter subversive view of America. In
that vein, “True West” offers Shepard’s unique view of the Bible’s story
of Abel and Cain.
Austin and Lee are brothers: Austin is an
up-and-coming Hollywood screenwriter; Lee is a ne’er-do-well who can’t
function in society and pilfers houses and lives in the desert to
survive. Austin is using his mother’s southern California home, while
she is vacationing in Alaska, to get away from his family to work on a
When Lee decides to drop in, though, all
concentration is lost. Lee envies his successful brother and does all he
can to make Austin miserable, irritating him, making fun of his
straight-laced nature. Austin’s envy for Lee’s freedom becomes clear
when he falls apart with defensiveness attempting to deal with his
Everything completely falls apart when Lee moves in
on Austin’s project, stealing the loyalty of Austin’s producer with his
hustling and braggadocio. Lee’s success is sweet at first, then bitter
as he realizes he can’t do it without Austin. All the while, Austin is
breaking loose from the shackles of respectability with equally
unattractive results. In short, both characters disintegrate.
Shepard himself describes the play as a battle
between the two sides in all of us. Conversely, it reveals our inability
to function outside the parameters of our own character. What makes
“True West” poignant – and funny – is that it strips naked our basest
emotions and throws them in our face (though lust doesn’t play a real
role in this particular tale).
Lost Nation’s production, directed by Gregg W.
Brevoort of New York, thoroughly enjoys Shepard’s delicious viciousness,
and the characters’ hilariously uncomfortable interaction. This is
essentially a two-man play, and Kim Bent, Lost Nation co-artistic
director, and Middlesex actor Jock MacDonald will be trading the roles
on alternating evenings, as was done on Broadway.
At Thursday’s preview performance, Bent made Austin
quite real, truly exasperated with his brother’s antics. But he was even
more convincing as Austin began to fall apart, get drunk, and finally
self-destruct. MacDonald seemed dangerously typecast as Lee, as he
swaggered his way into Austin’s life, destroying everything in his wake
– and finally himself.
At Thursday’s preview performance, some of the
timing was a bit off, and there were a few noticeably muffed lines, but
these are two fine actors, and watching them interact is a heady
experience. (Tonight, MacDonald will play Austin, and Bent will be Lee;
it should prove interesting.)
Richard Cianci as Saul Kimmer was a delightful
caricature of Hollywood movie producer. And Sharry Underwood proved
quite convincing as the brothers’ frail and somewhat out-of-it mother.
Kevin Kelley’s set was realistic, attractive and
quite effective, except when its expansiveness seemed to diffuse the
drama. Appropriate costuming by Cora Fauser contributed to this polished
Lost Nation’s “True West” proved intense, but
Lost Nation Theater presents a professional
production of Sam Shepard’s comedy, “True West,” tonight-Feb. 10, at
City Hall Arts Center, 39 Main St. in Montpelier. Performances are
Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 6:30 p.m., and a 2 p.m.
matinee, Saturday, Jan. 26. Tickets are $21, $18 for students and
seniors, $19 and $16 on Thursdays, and $15 and $13 for the matinee; call