Who knew Sam Shepard’s “True West” was just one big joke? In fact, it isn’t. But drained of the scary bile inherent in the script, the play lacks emotional resonance and begins to resemble something like sketch comedy. In this Hypocrites production directed by Geoff Button, the tenuous relationship between brothers Austin (a screenwriter with an Ivy League education) and Lee (a thief and a screw-up) positively combusts over the course of two days, but you never really worry about either man—or the violence simmering just beneath the surface. This is, notably, a rare Hypocrites production not directed by artistic director Sean Graney, although he designed the set, a bi-level kitchen/breakfast nook that is some of his finest work as a designer. While Button clearly knows how to pace and block a scene for maximum impact, he is missing Graney’s careful attention to the narrative itself. In the end, the production feels like a cliché, the ghosts of famous productions—John Malkovich and Gary Sinise in a career-making New York revival in 1982; Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly alternating the roles on Broadway in 2000—hovering around like so many useless toasters pilfered from unsuspecting neighbors. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.