By John Lyle Belden
There are a lot of people with love-hate relationships with their siblings. It’s a story as old as Cain and Abel. And what if, as in the Genesis story, despite all your hard work the divine blessing falls on your brother?
Placed in an all-American setting, this is the story of “True West,” by Sam Shepard, presented by Carmel Community Players at the Ivy Tech Noblesville Auditorium. Austin (Robert Webster Jr.) is working on a screenplay while housesitting for his mother (on an Alaska vacation) at her home near the Mojave Desert in California. At least he’s trying to work, as his estranged brother Lee (Matt Walls) constantly interrupts while hanging around the kitchen. Austin wants peace, Lee wants the car keys. Austin is developing his script, Lee has been casing the neighborhood for TVs and appliances to steal.
Austin’s Hollywood agent, Saul (Gary Curto), visits to check up on the writing, and comes under the fast-talking influence of Lee. The next day, there’s an offer on a script – but it’s not one Austin wants to write, or that Lee can, as much as he wants to.
The play unfolds in a darkly comic manner as the two brothers bicker, switch activities, and drink – a lot –manifesting in what will be for Missy Rump, both playing Mom and as assistant director and stage manager, one hell of a mess to clean up.
Director Eric Bryant gets the best out of actors truly playing to their strengths: Webster as the embodiment of noble intentions seeming to lead nowhere, Walls as one whose intimidating glance is backed by a sharp mind. Add alcohol and stress, and their flaws come to the surface in (for them) maddening and (for us) entertaining fashion.
Regarded as a modern classic, with hit Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Steppenwolf runs, “True West” is one of those plays everyone should see at least once, and this production fits the bill.
Performances are Thursday through Sunday, April 27-30, at 300 N. 17th St., Noblesville. Get info and tickets at CarmelPlayers.org.
– P.S. Yes, it is odd for a “Carmel” company to play out of town, but you can help bring them home to a stage of their own. See website for details.