Sam Shepard’s ‘True West’ opens at Plays and Players

Brian Osborne and Jeb Kreager play two very different brothers in "True West." Credit: Robert Hakalski
Brian Osborne and Jeb Kreager play two very different brothers in “True West.”
Credit: Robert Hakalski

When director Matt Pfeiffer was an undergrad acting major, an older student handed him a VHS copy of the 1984 American Playhouse broadcast of “True West” — a right of passage familiar to many young, brooding male actors coming of age in the ’90s.

“It was handed to me like a sacred text. It was slipped into your hand, like, ‘Hey, go watch this. It’ll change your life,’” explains Pfeiffer. “And it sure did. It had a lot to do with shaping what I thought theater could be.”

Now Pfeiffer is directing perhaps the most ambitious Philadelphia production of Sam Shepard’s modern classic. Theatre Exile, working with designer Matt Saunders, will install the iconic play in Plays and Players Theatre beginning this weekend.

Set in 1980, the play centers on a pair of brothers housesitting for their vacationing mother. One brother, Austin, was invited to do so; Lee invited himself. Austin has built a successful screenwriting career and predictable suburban lifestyle, while Lee has pursued a life of petty crime, drifting and desert philosophizing.

“We all have a good side and a bad side. Most days we’re stuck with that. There’s no real way to talk about it aloud,” says Pfeiffer. “But Shepard has created two characters that I think clearly represent the two halves of his personality. They have to fight it out for supremacy, but of course no one can completely win that battle.”

Pfeiffer is aiming for a more a more measured, less chaotic “True West” than the one enshrined by Gary Sinise and John Malkovich in that 1984 recording. So, while there will certainly be a few destructive swings of a golf club, there won’t be any need to install Plexiglas to protect the audience, as the Actors Theatre of Louisville did in 2012.

“There’s a reckless abandon to the Malkovich and Sinise version which has defined the play for some,” says Pfeiffer. “And it was wonderful to watch but, looking back, it kind of upstaged the play. I’m much more interested in hitting the play a little more squarely.”


Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking


K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.


Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.


Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.


Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.


Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…


Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.


Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.


2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…


Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.


Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.


Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.


Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.