Two brothers explore their shadow sides as they move from mutual disdain to wishing for the other’s life and inadvertently switching roles in “True West.”

Two brothers explore their shadow sides as they move from mutual disdain to wishing for the other’s life and inadvertently switching roles in “True West.”

The play, by Sam Shepard, will be presented at 8 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday, at PSU’s Grubbs Studio Theatre, and features a double-casting for the role of Austin.

Austin will be played by Robert Wilson on Thursday and Saturday evenings, and by Rashid Fielder-Bey during the Friday and Sunday performances.

Austin, a playwright with an ivy league education, is taking a writer’s retreat while house-sitting for his mother as she takes a cruise.

Lee, played by Austin Curtright, is Austin’s brother and has spent time living in the desert as a drifter. When he shows up unexpectedly at his brother’s retreat, it quickly becomes apparent the two don’t think highly of each other or the lives they have chosen.

The plot picks up speed when Austin has the opportunity to pitch a script to Saul, a producer, played by Jacob Hacker. During their meeting, Lee returns unexpectedly and begins to pitch his own script, a modern western, to Saul.

Austin encourages the idea at first.

“You could really change things,” he tells Lee. “Turn your life around.”

The brothers have a heart-to-heart conversation about admiring the lives each other leads, with Lee wondering what it would like to be successful and Austin mentioning a wanderlust for adventure.

One hustled game of golf later, Saul has dropped Austin’s script to begin working on Lee’s idea, and the tables begin to turn.

In a comical mirroring of the opening scene, Lee begins pounding out a script as Austin drinks and becomes Lee’s distraction.

Lee’s enthusiasm for his script quickly turns to frustration, while Austin decides to leave success to follow Lee into the desert.

Lee bribes Austin to type the script for him with the promise of teaching his brother how to survive the desert, but before they can do so Mom, played by Taylor Patterson, arrives home and is shocked by the scene.

The drama escalates, and ultimately the audience is left to ponder the ending and what took place after the lights were lowered.

“I think it really is timeless in asking who we are, what we want to be, what’s true about us,” said Director Gil Cooper. “Actors really love it because it’s a challenge.”

Cooper said the natural dialogue that is a hallmark of a Shepard play is challenging for the actors, but that it is true, witty and jumps around like a natural conversation.

He also said the two Austin actors use the same script, but very different interpretations of the character. The original intent was to also double-cast Lee.

Doug Bennett is the production’s set designer and technical director, Lisa Quinteros designed the costumes, and Amie Beggs is the properties manager.

Tickets for “True West” are $10 for the public, $6 for those under age 17 or over age 65, and free to PSU students, faculty and staff with a valid PSU Photo I.D.
The show runs 1 hour, 40 minutes, including a 10 minute intermission, and may not be appropriate for all audiences, as it does include strong language.