By: Michael M. Humel
“True West” on the surface is a play about the struggles between two brothers. When you dig deeper into the minds of these characters you can see how far back the disdain and jealousies go between them. I was able to see one of the very first performances at Las Vegas Little Theatre.
When the play begins Austin played by Shane Cullum is house sitting for his mother who has taken a vacation to Alaska. His older brother Lee played by David Beck has come to pay Austin an unexpected and unwelcome visit. I could feel the tension between the two characters as I watched the opening conversations. Even I felt awkward watching the interactions because of how real they felt. Austin is a well accomplished screenwriter who is working on a script while his older desert dwelling brother makes it almost impossible to get any work done. At the start I felt like Lee just wanted to feel like he belonged and he was being shunned by his younger more successful brother. Even though Lee was being outcast by his younger brother Austin didn’t seem to have much of a backbone throughout the play if at all. Shane Cullum plays his part well with humor to contrast the intensity of Lee. I liked Cullum’s character much more in the second act. David Beck is captivating and inspiring as Lee. His presence is demanding.
When Austin has a meeting with a big time producer we get our first look at Saul played by Brian Scott. Part of me wanted to see more from the character of Saul because I wanted to see what Brian Scott could do. However, I knew that if he had over acted his character it would have taken the focal point and the intensity away from the relationship between the two brothers. When he first stepped on stage and started talking my first thought was, ‘He is a bit of a sleaze ball.’ So I think Scott did his job just fine. During act two the story and the tension between the two brothers really heats up. I found the change in the two characters very interesting. Once it looks like Lee is going to become successful based on the writing of his story he becomes a bit more pleasant. However, he develops a bit of a high horse even though he can’t write the story that’s in his head. The changes in their personalities gave another element to the story. At the end of the play the rage between the two brothers that results in a fight that seems to the death. The only part of the play I didn’t like was the relaxed nature of the mom played by Helen Okonski. I didn’t like how the character was written because most mothers wouldn’t have been so relaxed and distant. That is one part of the story that as you walk out of the theatre you are wondering what was really going on with mom. Shawn Hackler made important and smart choices in the direction of this exciting show.
True West is playing at LVLT and only as one weekend left before the show is gone. Almost every if not every performance has been sold out. If you want to see this play before it ends go to http://www.lvlt.org