Spotlight: True West

Sam Shepard's classic 1980 drama takes two estranged brothers, places them alone in their mother's house on the edge of the Mojave Desert, adds frustration and booze, then waits for the results. Brother Austin (Bob Malos) is a semi-successful screenwriter and Ivy League grad. Lee (Gus Lynch) is a rage-inclined petty burglar who, in the early going, takes inordinate pleasure in tormenting his more accomplished sibling. The first act is a tough sell. Lynch, all flesh and ill-advised facial hair, is appropriately scary in a trashy sort of way. But it's hard to buy that the physically bigger Malos would cower from him in fear. Malos is better suited to roles that allow him to make use of his bulk and booming, rich voice—such as Victor, the doomed millionaire in Girl Friday Productions' An Empty Plate at the Cafe du Grand Boeuf. Dialing back on the power early on here, his character seems murky and indistinct. Shepard throws a monkey wrench into the action, though, when Lee sells a screenplay idea to Hollywood sharpie Saul (Edwin Strout, doing decent work with an improbable and underwritten role). Soon the brothers switch psychic space, and the show begins to find its feet. Lynch keeps his rage, throwing things about the set and sweating buckets. But now Lee is the one facing the frustration of developing an idea while Austin digs himself an alcoholic ditch. Off the leash now, Malos evinces a gleeful delight over Lee's newly wound-up state. What follows is a descent into rancor and mutual destruction, as Malos and Lynch trash the house and, eventually, each other. Though at first this production feels more like an acting clinic than a gripping drama, by the end these two larger-than-life performers grab hold of this play's neck and give it a thorough wringing.

 
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