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True West - Full Length Play, Comedy

True West

Sam Shepard

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Full Length Play, Comedy

3m, 1f

ISBN: 9780573617287

Finalist! 1983 Pulitzer Prize in Drama
This American classic explores alternatives that might spring from the demented terrain of the California landscape.

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Description | Characters | Author | Now Playing | Reviews
: Acting Edition
: Large Print
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Minimum Fee: $100 per performance


Full Length Play


Time Period - Contemporary, 1980s

Settings Of Play - A kitchen and adjoining alcove in a suburb forty miles outside of Los Angeles.


Interior Set


Alcohol, Strong Language


Adult, Senior


College Theatre / Student, Community Theatre, Professional Theatre, Reader's Theatre


Pulitzer, From Broadway, From Off-Broadway

Finalist! 1983 Pulitzer Prize in Drama
Recently revived at New York's Circle in the Square, where Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly alternated playing the roles of the brothers, this American classic explores alternatives that might spring from the demented terrain of the California landscape. Sons of a desert dwelling alcoholic and a suburban wanderer clash over a film script. Austin, the achiever, is working on a script he has sold to producer Sal Kimmer when Lee, a demented petty thief, drops in. He pitches his own idea for a movie to Kimmer, who then wants Austin to junk his bleak, modern love story and write Lee's trashy Western tale.

"'True West' has ... arguably become Shepard's signature piece, the leanest, most pointed of his full-length works." - David Krasner, A Companion to Twentieth Century American Drama.

"Shepard's masterwork.... It tells us a truth, as glimpsed by a 37 year old genius." - New York Post

"It's clear, funny, naturalistic. It's also opaque, terrifying, surrealistic. If that sounds contradictory, you're on to one aspect of Shepard's winning genius; the ability to make you think you're watching one thing while at the same time he's presenting another." - San Francisco Chronicle
True West premiered at the Magic Theatre in San Franciso on July 10, 1980.


3m, 1f





Now Playing
Dee Dee O'Connor 5/7/2015 2:56 PM
James Harris 4/23/2013 4:37 PM
What happens when two brothers inhabit completely opposite personalities of the same soul? Fractured shadows of each other, they are both incomplete, keenly aware and even envious of the other one. Which version and story is true and authentic?  Sam Shepard's "True West" poses this question -- a Cain and Abel re-imagined for our time. The play is a virtual pressure cooker, ominously simmering and steaming, about to explode at any moment. And explode it does.

Austin, an intelligent Ivy League graduate, who is calm, married and a struggling screenwriter, is alone house sitting for his mother who is off to Alaska. He is fighting writer's block on a script that could save his career. His estranged brother, Lee, a con artist and thief, suddenly shows up from the surrounding desert -- a ravaged coyote, quietly and menacingly emerging to toy with its next prey.

What follows is a night both dangerous and hilarious in cosmic proportions -- one that threatens to erupt at any moment -- fueled by those two dueling half-personalities of the same person. As the brothers slowly and suspiciously draw closer, as if being sucked into an inevitable black hole, each collapses, only to emerge transformed into being the other's envied personality, both about to crumble into complete chaos.

"True West" remains a tour de force for actors, with the audience witnessing a dramatic yet comic meltdown. It offers many insights and questions into what might or might not be the authentic soul harboring within each of us. Which of our resulting stories and landscapes are true? Perhaps we all are both -- that there is no "true west."

Max Bisantz 4/22/2013 1:17 PM
Sam Shepard's potent play, True West, is a grim slice of Americana, profiling two estranged brothers whose relationship is as savage as their surroundings. Austin, a Hollywood screenwriter, is house sitting for his mother in the desert when his older brother, Lee, pays him a visit. A vagabond and petty thief, Lee has been absent for five years now, sleeping in the desert and living off the land. When Austin suggests he leave, the two face off, prompting a series of feuds and scuffles that threaten the delicate balance of their sibling dynamic.

More than just a family play, True West explores the mythology behind the American Dream. Austin's blazon career trajectory in opposition to Lee's survivalist mentality wrestles with what it takes to be a success. As the two brother's fumble with a new script idea, we see the push and pull mechanism that make the American Dream something of a farce. It's the struggle that's the real show in this play, and Sam Shepard brings all its ugliness and heartbreak to light.

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