According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Season of Change: True West

In this off-kilter, but otherwise straightforward production of True West, one actor's comedic choices bring a new dimension to Lee, but at a cost to the show's themes. Shepard's words are more vibrant than ever (having ripened with age) and the clash between action and text makes for an interesting night.

Zack Calhoon & Jordan Meadows in True West

Photo Credit/Frank Cuzler

Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

Sam Shepard’s True West is a play about two brothers, Lee and Austin, who are everything and nothing alike. Dreamscape Theater’s cartoonish production is, in turn, everything and nothing like True West—as much a riff as it is a faithful homage. Two separate plays happen simultaneously: a comic interpretation by Zack Calhoon, who plays the menacing Lee as a buffoon, and a serious one by Jordan Meadows, whose Austin is both bitter and adoring. Though I found myself put off at first by Calhoon’s antics, he sticks with it enough to present a dimension to Lee that other actors often gloss over with anger: petulant immaturity. At one point, Lee blithely remarks, “He must’ve been one of us.” He follows this with slapstick, sticking out his tongue and jabbing his finger at Austin—a needless expression of the subtext, perhaps, but also a charmingly satisfying one. I just wish it had more in common with the work director Kate Ross is doing, with her hyper-realistic kitchenette staging, her moonlit scenes, and the incessant sound of crickets.

Because of Calhoon’s unchecked sniping, many of the fraternal themes get lost to those of the fraternity: Lee scatters beer cans across the stage between scenes, belches often for emphasis, and talks in a cynical tone that doesn’t quite match that of a desert-hopping, cactus-talking, TV-stealing pariah. On the other hand, Meadows could be a poster-child for the freeway-driving, smog-eating, Safeway-shopping model citizen, and while the contrast between the two is appreciated, in this context, the two don’t compliment one another. All the chemistry ends up coming from Meadows, a talented actor who does justice to the climax, an act of psychotic adoration.

Shepard mentions that the true west is “grown men acting like boys,” but from Calhoon, we only get the boy, and from Ross’s lopsided direction, one can only assume she firmly believes boys will be boys (and has hence stopped trying to direct them). Where applicable, this production of True West is an engaging drama, but more often than not, it is also a comedic revue. You’ve given us our passionate, mild-mannered Austin; now gives us back our violent, unpredictable Lee—or at least agree to disagree.

Dreamscape Theater (
Hudson Guild Theater (441 W 26th Street)
Tickets ( $15.00
10/15 @ 7:00; 10/17 @ 8:00; 10/21 @ 1:00; 10/25, 10/27 @ 8:00

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