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.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Sierra Leone Ebola patient, recovered from family, dies…

An Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer has died.

Local

VIDEO: Cop reassigned as NYPD investigates alleged head…

An officer alleged to have stomped on a Brooklyn man's head last week had his gun taken away and placed on modified duty.

National

New York Times calls for legalization of pot

The New York Times editorial board on Saturday endorsed a repeal of the federal ban on marijuana, becoming the largest paper in the nation to back the idea.

National

Two injured after cable snaps on Ohio amusement…

(Reuters) - A cable on a large swing ride at an Ohio amusement park snapped and struck two riders as the swing was in motion,…

Music

Newport Folk Festival: Photo gallery of 35 moments…

As has been the tradition since Bob Dylan plugged in a bajillion years ago, the Newport Folk Festival embraces more musical genres than its name implies.

Music

MKTO: Behind the bromance

MKTO's Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller talk about the American Dream tour, Demi Lovato and getting turned down by girls.

Arts

James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne head to…

Two-time Tony winner James Earl Jones returns to the New York stage next month as an eccentric grandfather in a revival of the 1930s comedy…

Movies

Box office: Scarlett Johansson wins battle of brains…

Scarlett Johansson's "Lucy" handily dispatched with Dwayne Johnson's "Hercules" over the weekend.

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

MLB

Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Auto racing

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Wellbeing

This Week In Health: Friends share similar DNA,…

Friends share similar DNA, study finds Location: U.S. Study subjects: Nearly 2,000 people Results: When it comes to our social networks, it seems that birds of…

Education

Are liberal arts colleges turning away from the…

Bryn Mawr College, a small women's college located just outside of Philadelphia, announced last week that it would be making standardized tests like the SAT…

Education

Recent grads discover school superintendent plagiarized parts of…

  Two recent high school graduates made a surprising discovery about the commencement speech their school superintendent delivered at their graduation: portions of it was copied…

Career

Feeling stuck? Get out of the entry-level job…

Television and movies may be littered with 20-something characters who seem directionless when it comes to their careers, but author Mary Traina says she finds…