A Toast to Two Brothers – A review of “True West”

by Claire DeMarco, ‘Burgh Vivant

Sibling rivalry has been around since Cain and Abel.  “True West” continues that tradition with the two main characters, Austin (Max Begler) and Lee (Evan Saunders).

Both brothers, who have always had a troublesome relationship, find themselves together at their mother’s house in Southern California in the early 1980’s while she is vacationing in Alaska.  Austin is house-sitting. Lee, who normally hangs out in the desert, also ends up at mom’s place.

Austin is the younger brother embracing a traditional life. He is college-educated, married with children, and enjoying a successful screenwriting career.   Lee is a loner, an excessive drinker, and always confrontational.  He is also a petty thief (with a penchant for stealing household appliances).

Tensions escalate between the brothers when Hollywood producer, Saul Kimmer (Hayden Lounsbury) visits to discuss potential opportunities for Austin.  Through sheer nagging and persistence, Lee ingratiates himself into convincing Saul that he, too, can write a screenplay.

Conflict grows between the brothers as Lee threatens to break into Austin’s settled, controlled world.

How will this heightened conflict change the brothers’ relationship?  Or will it?   Does one of them change? Just wait till their mother (Christina McElwee) shows up!

Begler takes Austin from a relatively quiet, controlled figure to someone more belligerent and outspoken like his brother, while Saunders sustains the energy and intensity of Lee throughout the production.

McElwee and  Lounsbury complete the cast with shorter, but clever character interpretations.

One of the many toasters that Austin pilfers actually worked. In the second act, the entire theater filled up with the familar smell of toasted bread.

Michael Makar skillfully directs this production of  Sam Shepard’s American classic, “True West.”

“True West” runs through to April 30th at the Genesius Theater, Duquesne University, 600 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA. For more information, click here.


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