"True West" played its final Broadway performance on
July 29, 2000.
Synopsis taken from the official page of
Shepard's classic comedy is the story of estranged
brothers Austin and Lee - one a
scriptwriter, the other a thief and a drifter. In truth,
the brothers actually envy one another - straight-laced
Austin yearns to live on the edge; Lee covets the stable
life of a highly paid writer. Their quest to diverge
from their lifestyles results in a developmental
stalemate. Unable to progress forward or return to their
former selves, Austin and Lee are trapped...
...Taking on the delectable roles of estranged brothers
Austin and Lee are Josh Brolin (Flirting with Disaster,
The Hollow Man) and Elias Koteas (The Thin Red Line,
Gattica). Adding to the mayhem, the actors tackle the
exhilarating challenge of switching roles every three
True West Review.
Western Queens Gazette, July 26, 2000
True West Theater Review
Variety, July 17, 2000
shame that audiences appear to be drying up for
Broadway's "True West" after the exit of Philip Seymour
Hoffman and John C. Reilly, the indie film stars whose
bravura performances made Matthew Warchus' production
the must-see show of the season. As Messrs. Hoffman,
Reilly and Warchus surely knew, and the production's
perfectly viable new stars Josh Brolin and Elias Koteas
are continuing to prove, Sam Shepard's inspired,
blazingly funny writing is the real star here.
Shepard's play, about two brothers who turn a simmering
case of sibling rivalry into a violent game of anarchic
revelry, reveals sharp and affecting new aspects at each
viewing. In the current version, which features Brolin
as the prepster screen-writer Austin and Koteas as the
grungy drifter Lee, it's the mad preposterousness of the
brothers' attempt to trade lives and livelihoods that
most strongly registers.
both roles, Hoffman and Reilly shared a certain softness
and sensitivity beneath their brutish or buttoned-down
exteriors; one sensed sympathetic, similarly wounded
hearts under both brothers' skins, and this secret
allegiance made it seem somehow natural that these two
polar opposites should seek to merge. But Brolin and
Koteas are so strikingly -- even cartoonishly --
dissimilar that Austin's drunken desire to escape his
life by free-falling into his brother's deadbeat
existence seems desperate to the point of lunacy, and
therefore more absurdly funny.
appears as square and white as they come as Austin. His
jaw and shoulders seem chiseled from granite, and when
he locks his arms across his chest he looks mummified by
self-consciousness. He speaks with the ingratiating
placidity of a younger brother used to having to cajole
his way through life, but Brolin also brings witty
flourishes to his lines when Austin's passive aggression
begins to flare.
defensively tells the taunting Lee, "I'm not afraid
you'll embarrass me," Austin's accidental emphasis on
"afraid" reveals that he's entirely sure Lee will
embarrass him. Overall, Brolin gives a quietly assured
performance that generously leaves the fireworks to his
Lee couldn't be a more antithetical physical specimen:
smeared in black grim, wiry in contrast with Austin's
rectangular bulk, jumping as if on hot coals while
Austin treads softly. Koteas' performance is boldly
drawn, vivid and amusingly boisterous, even treading
near caricature with the added absurdity of a thick
Texas drawl (another trait that makes these two seem to
come from entirely different universes). Koteas does,
however, come close to turning his funny physical
mannerisms into shtick. He can't resist eking out
another laugh with a wild gesture of frustration after
the first one lands.
primary element now missing from the production is the
sensitivity and depth of feeling that previously marked
Warchus' interpretation of a play whose surreal and
violent antics can easily obscure its deeper layers.
These may be revealed as the new stars find their feet,
or they may come to light when the actors switch roles,
as they plan to begin doing in the coming weeks.