Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2015-11-25
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


True West Playwright: Sam Shepard
by Rick Reed

facebook twitter stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email

Sam Shepard's True West has earned its reputation as a contemporary classic. The story of two brothers, Austin and Lee, this over-the-top, dark comedy explores the duality of human nature by separating it into two very different siblings. Austin is the "good" brother: a screenwriter with a stable life, successful career and a dearth of vices. Lee is the wild brother: unpredictable, hard-drinking, a drifter, impractical and sometimes violent, Lee personifies the legacy of both the brothers' father, who is referred to often enough in the play to become a kind of motif for irresponsibility and a dedication to living life on one's own terms. The irony of Shepard's story is that each brother envies the other and it is this envy that throws them together, with Lee trying to write the great American "true west" screenplay, while his straight-laced brother dabbles in petty crime and drunkenness. Set over the course of a few days in their vacationing mother's vacant desert home, True West descends into chaos as the brothers grasp in vain for new identities.

Bailiwick's Deaf Artist Program adds a new twist to the tale by making Lee, the wild brother, hearing-impaired. Michael J. Stark, as Lee, has the requisite John Malkovich look and mannerisms down for the part ( Malkovich originated the role with Gary Sinise for Steppenwolf ) . He does an excellent job, even without speaking any of Shepard's rough-hewn dialogue ( this Lee communicates with American Sign Language [ ASL ] ) . Equally good is Aaron Christensen as Austin, who has the thankless job of not only fleshing out his own role as the successful, responsible brother, but of translating almost everything his brother is saying for the hearing audience. And herein lies the problem of this production of True West. Having Austin rephrase everything Lee is saying so those of us who don't understand ASL can know what's going on is an awkward device and one which ultimately undercuts Shepard's escalating drama, crisp characterization and, unfortunately, his message. The translating becomes a gimmick, detracting too much from the very human drama unfolding on the stage. We're forced to think too much about how director Ronald Jiu is trying to translate True West into a production that can be done by the Deaf Artist Program instead of the valid tale the playwright so brilliantly conceived. At one point, when Austin and his agent, Saul ( the wooden and unfunny Marc Lessman ) are speaking, we see their words projected on a board behind them. This same simple device might have been an alternate route to providing a voice for Lee for those of us who don't understand ASL.

This is an ambitious production, with fine performances by the two leads, but, as a play incorporating the hearing-impaired, it just doesn't work. There's simply too many burdens placed on one character ( Austin ) for us to fully appreciate the fine balance Shepard was trying to impart when he was crafting his metaphor about the duality of our natures.

facebook twitter stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


New shows in New York 2015-11-25
Remy presenting 'Fallen Angels' 2015-11-25
THEATER REVIEW You Can't Take It with You 2015-11-25
THEATER REVIEW Pocatello 2015-11-25
THEATER REVIEW No More Sad Things 2015-11-25
Theater Spotlight; Critics' Picks 2015-11-25
Jess Godwin show Dec. 4 at Athenaeum Theater 2015-11-24
NUNN ON ONE: THEATER David Arquette: No place like 'Holmes' 2015-11-19
SCOTTISH PLAY SCOTT Terrence McNally in Chicago 2015-11-18
Theatre School at DePaul U names award winners 2015-11-18
Theater Spotlight; Critics' Picks 2015-11-18
DOUBLE REVIEW The Long Christmas Ride Home; The Lisbon Traviata 2015-11-18
THEATER REVIEW The Raid 2015-11-18
THEATER REVIEW Fulfillment 2015-11-18
THEATER REVIEW Pilgrim's Progress 2015-11-18
About Face Theatre presents benefit reading of The Homosexuals 2015-11-17
Janet at the Chicago Theater; Big Chicks 2015-11-11
THEATER REVIEW Spill 2015-11-11
THEATER REVIEW Chapter Two 2015-11-11
THEATER REVIEW Belladonna Luna Sonata 2015-11-11
THEATER REVIEW Hershey Fielder as Irving Berlin 2015-11-11
Theater Spotlight; Critics Picks 2015-11-11
Entertainment: Anderson Cooper; Michelle Rodriguez; debuts; J.Lo vs. Mariah 2015-11-10
Season of Concern marks 30 years 2015-11-04
SCOTTISH PLAY SCOTT Desperately seeking ... HIV? 2015-11-04
Theater Spotlight; Critics' Picks 2015-11-04
THEATER REVIEW Design for Living 2015-11-04
THEATER REVIEW R&J: The Vineyard 2015-11-04
THEATER REVIEW The Firestorm 2015-11-04
SCOTTISH PLAY SCOTT Michael Black: Mastering many styles 2015-10-28
CHF's 'Four Women' Nov. 2 in Lincoln Park 2015-10-28
THEATER REVIEW Charm 2015-10-28
THEATER REVIEW Treasure Island 2015-10-28
THEATER REVIEW Lawd, the CVS Is Burning 2015-10-28
About Face's 'Club' raises $70K 2015-10-28
THEATER REVIEW Knocking Up the Mob 2015-10-26
Theater Spotlight: New Stages festival; Critics' Picks 2015-10-26
THEATER David Zak talks theater, film, upcoming benefit 2015-10-24
Night of 100 Drag Queens begins 2015-10-22
"Chicago" razzle-dazzle returns to Broadway In Chicago 2015-10-21

Copyright © 2015 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.