True West a true hit

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November 23, 2013

True West by Sam Shepard

Directed by Britt Small

November 19 – December 1, 2013

The Roxy Theatre

Nadia Grutter

“Did they do a good job of it?” someone asked me after I saw Blue Bridge Theatre’s November 19, 2013 rendition of Sam Shephard’s True West. Absolutely, was my reply. The play was one of the best productions I’ve seen in Victoria. And that is why this is going to be a spoiler review. If it isn’t enough to read that this play is fantastic and buy yourself tickets, read on, but know that I’m revealing some of the juiciest bits.

The play shows estranged brothers and Lee and Austin, who find themselves housesitting their mother’s suburban home…together. Austin is trying to negotiate with a Hollywood producer despite Lees constant interjections and eventual undermining of the project. Directed by Britt Small, this comedy explores the differences and similarities between the two within the tense confines of reconciliation.

The show has incredible attention to detail, from sound and set to costume. The set is a kitsch yellow kitchen, with a fully stocked fridge and pan-stacked cupboards. On the table are dog-eared books beside a functional typewriter (which is later de-ribboned and later still, destroyed with a golf club). In the back corner are potted plants, which are effectively killed as well. In one scene Austin steals a series of toasters, which are plugged into the stage and nearly pop toast into the front row. Lee wears a leopard print belt, Denis’ hair comes loose as he drinks, cricket sounds taunt Lee half into madness and their mother’s bright blue eye shadow makes her character twice as hilarious. To all involved designers: well done.

While the acting was generally impressive, Paul Fauteux’s stage presence was a force to be reckoned with. His portrayal of the bat-out-of-hell Lee took the fiction out of Lee’s character and made me believe in the the wide-stanced, expressive delinquent in front of me. I was nervous that he might jump down and teach me a lesson if I looked at him the wrong way. What made Fauteux’s performance so believable was the humanity with which he played Lee. He understood the character so well that when a chair unexpectedly fell over in the middle of a scene, he kicked it.

Jacob Richmond’s character, Austin, was supposed to be more static, but his comedic timing seemed off—but only when his character was sober. Drunk Austin was hilarious. At one point Fauteux knocks a plate of toast out of his hands. Richmond proceeds to crawl around the stage and earnestly reassemble the tower of toast. His bewilderedness made me also believe that reassembling that stack of toast was of the utmost importance, and I quietly egged him on from the front row. My only complaint was that, despite their tumultuous relationship, the two characters yelled too much. Both actors demonstrated the ability to dynamically handle emotional material, and I would have liked to see them deliver those highly emotional lines with less volume and more feeling.

True West is not to be missed—seriously. Do yourself a favour and visit Blue Bridge at The Roxy for an evening of laughs, tears and toast.

Nadia Grutter is a freelance writer and editor living in Victoria.

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