TRUE WEST, Thirsty Theater, at Pilsen Theatre. It's not hard to see why young male actors are drawn to Sam Shepard's 1981 play about a pair of competitive brothers, one a soft screenwriter, the other a hardened petty criminal. The characters are vivid, the story is compelling, and the dialogue perfectly blends Shepard's natural wit with his love of poetic speech. This is the third production of the play I've seen in three years--and it only grows richer with repeated viewings.
Plus the play is a hoot to perform, giving young male bodies plenty of room to snort and stamp and scrape the earth. And when the two leads work together as well as Frank F. Fowle and Marc Jablon do in this Thirsty Theater production, True West takes off. Not that they deserve all the credit. Without strong direction the sibling rivalry can easily decay into a shouting, fighting mess. Director Mitch Newman makes sure the play unfolds at just the right pace.
Not everyone in this production is as committed to his or her role as Fowle and Jablon, however. Doug Wynne is not always convincing as the oily Hollywood producer, Saul Kimmer, playing him as a sort of used-car salesman: corrupt and stupid as Kimmer is, he should never be coarse. Michelle Kalisiak is almost totally unconvincing as the brothers' mom. But since Fowle and Jablon click, the enterprise soars. --Jack Helbig