February 5, 2019
When the diminutive, elderly mother (a splendidly deadpan Marylouise Burke) walks into the disaster area once known as her kitchen, she puts down her two red suitcases and greets her sons before even asking about the destruction.
That’s pretty much the logic that follows, or not, much of Sam Shepard’s play on a brotherly tug-of war. At once depressing and manic, Ethan Hawke (Lee) and Paul Dano (Austin) dance their Argentinean tango of childhood jealousies and adult animosity, hooking legs and chest slams.
Quitely typing at the kitchen table, next to a lit candle, Austin’s serenity is sorely challenged by his vagabond brother. Draped over the kitchen counter, with a pack of beers strung around his finger, Lee leers at his brother and demands the car keys. Clearly a person who lives on the fringes of acceptable society, Lee developed his wits and trades in minor thefts while Austin snared an Ivy League education. The good boy, bad boy syndrome takes a radical turn when a producer arrives to discuss a screen project with Austin only to reverse course and agree to produce Ethan’s clichéd cowboy film concept.
By the second act, both are in a state of agitation. Intent on proving he can buddy up with Lee and roam the desert, Austin accepts Lee challenge to steal toasters from all the neighborhood homes. This leads to some of the funniest scenes I’ve ever seen in a True West production. From the moment everyone witnesses a half dozen toasters parked throughout the kitchen—the ludicrousness escalates.
While Lee attempts to type his script with one finger, Austin ricochets from one toaster to another as bread pops up in time for him to catch, butter and pile the stack up on a plate like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Volcanic explosions knock the two brothers throughout the house, crashing over every piece of furniture until their childish rivalry rolls right in front of ---their clueless mother.
Roundabout Theater’s production excels on the strength of its casting and radiant direction by James Macdonald.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis