TRUE WEST (Subscension): 2018 Fringe review

2147-48f31dbf7bac54ebb3579702f075b03f (1)A brand new little company that aligns with a bunch of modern theories of theater, is tackling TRUE WEST for their first production. The late great Sam Shepard’s play is one I know intimately and love beyond reason.  So I came into this show with trepidation, prepared to endure and make the best of deadly novice actor line speak. It was a relief and a pleasure to discover that this was not to be the case. These fine actors went immediately inside their roles, confident and armed with philosophical underpinnings about mythic space, civilized and primitive identities, halves of a whole morphing, and humor. 

Subscension claims a punk aesthetic, which fits with Sam Shepard, a “do it my way” guy who was pretty punked out himself, hanging out at the Chelsea Hotel with Patti Smith in NYC. It turns out that both lead actors, Chris Serpentine (co-founder) and Seth G. Martin, have acting and teaching experience, and co-director/co-founder John Mullaney joins them as Villanova Theater MA’s. Heather Lucas (co-director) works the tech aspect at the performance. The evening starts off with a gamble. Director Mullaney asks several people in the audience to take a look at the actors who are standing by and answer a few key questions he poses. Audience answers determine who (between Serpentine and Martin) will play Austin and who will play Lee in this performance. Both actors are prepared to take on the role of either brother at a moment’s notice. Crazy and impressive. I do wish I had an open time to see a performance with the roles reversed. The cast is rounded out with Steve Underwood as Saul and Ellen Wilson Dilks as Mom.

The direction limps a couple of times, but it’s not rad. It’s not easy to negotiate a wide performance space that’s not ideally suited to the play’s needs. Short audio clips by famous men intrude a few times, part of the gestalt that’s not entirely clear. But this is a really good TRUE WEST production. If you already love Sam Shepard or if you’d like to know his work, you owe it to yourself to get a ticket. This little company has heft and promise. The Fringe has given them the opportunity to launch and they’ve certainly taken advantage of it.

[The Maas Building, 1325 N. Randolph Street] September 12- 22, 2018; fringearts.com/event/true-west

 

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About the author

Kathryn Osenlund, theater and film junkie, is a former National Critics Institute fellow, NEA fellow in Arts Journalism, and member of the American Theater Critics Assn Steinberg and Osborn playwriting awards committee. A Barrymore Award nominator and professor emeritus in communications and theater, Kathryn also writes for NY-based CurtainUp.com. On twitter @theatrendorphin.