Sam Shepard’s wild West just got a lot scarier.
I’m talking about that shadowy, shifting desertscape occupied so disharmoniously by the two brothers of Shepard’s 1980 masterwork, “True West,” which has been given a ripping revival by James Macdonald at the American Airlines Theater. As embodied by a brilliant Ethan Hawke, in full-menace mode, and a tightly wired Paul Dano, everyday sibling rivalry has seldom felt this ominous.
[Read more about Paul Dano, and his reflections on acting and directing.]
It’s not that you worry that one’s going to kill the other, in the time-honored tradition of Cain and Abel, although that looms as a possibility. What’s really threatening in this Roundabout Theater Company production, which opened on Thursday night, is its creeping, gut-knotting insistence that family is no fortress against a darkness that erases all sense of a separate self.
On the contrary. When it comes to getting lost in the gloaming of existential nothingness, there’s no place like home.
Anyone who knows the work of Shepard, who died in 2017, will be familiar with this discomfiting perspective. “A Lie of the Mind,” the name of his 1985 portrait of a family in fission, could well be an umbrella title for the series of domestic dramas that preceded it, including his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Buried Child” (1978). (Footnote: Mr. Hawke has Shepard cred, having appeared in the 1995 Steppenwolf revival of “Buried Child” in Chicago and directed a first-rate “Lie of the Mind” in New York in 2010.)
Written during a decade-long explosion of creativity, these plays present a tragicomic vision of the American family that, for my money, puts him in the exalted company of Eugene O’Neill. “True West” — first seen in New York in a misbegotten, miscast production at the Public Theater nearly four decades ago — hasn’t always received the solemn respect accorded the others.
It is usually thought of as an occasion for Method men — including John Malkovich and Gary Sinise (in 1982) and Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly (who memorably switched roles in rotation in 2000) — to get down and dirty and tear up the scenery. Mr. Hawke and Mr. Dano do all that, especially in the boisterous second act.
But Mr. Macdonald — a British director who has expertly interpreted the apocalyptic visions of Caryl Churchill (“Escaped Alone” and “A Number,” which happened to star Shepard) — is a master at building suspense from seemingly banal elements. And for the first half of his “True West,” he imbues the most prosaic details with mounting tension worthy of Hitchcock.
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Here’s the setup: Austin (Mr. Dano), a screenwriter in his early 30s, is taking time away from his family to work at the Southern California home of his mother, who is vacationing in Alaska. (She shows up late in the play, in the pricelessly bewildered form of Marylouise Burke.) To his politely concealed dismay, he is joined by a surprise guest: big brother Lee (Mr. Hawke), a scruffy black sheep whom Austin hasn’t seen in five years.
As rendered in Mimi Lien’s set, Mom’s place (in full view of the audience before the show begins) is a sunny slice of California cheesiness, with a garden gnome, flourishing potted plants and a clear view of the house next door. Nothing to be scared of here.
Then the play proper starts, in thick darkness, with the repeated crash of guitar chords and a blitz of bright lights that define the proscenium frame, an effect repeated between the succeeding scenes. Gradually, two figures emerge. (Jane Cox did the superb, insinuating lighting.) One of them is Austin, crisply pressed, bespectacled, seated at a typewriter.
Then there’s the bulky, tall guy by the sink. He looks like trouble — maybe a burglar who would happily pull a knife on you if cornered. To say that he is Austin’s brother does not contradict this impression. In Mr. Shepard’s universe, home invader and next of kin can easily be one in the same.
Accept the satisfying shivers the moment provokes, sit back and get ready to enjoy the most perfectly distilled 50 minutes or so of classic Shepard you’re ever likely to see. What happens in the play’s first act is, on one level, routine family friction, with the attendant laundry list of grievances about who got the better deal growing up.
But the uneasiness inherent in such encounters acquires a shimmering intensity, as in a nightmare that’s both set in a place you know and as alien as a distant planet. The two boys are obviously falling back into old patterns of taunting, resentful aggression (Lee) and tightly wound propitiation (Austin).
Yet no matter the subject — a dinner plate with a map of Idaho, the screenplay Austin’s working on, their alcohol-demented old father or the months alone Lee spent in the Mojave Desert — it somehow feels as if the stakes couldn’t be higher. Not because Lee might be planning to loot the neighbors’ houses or bollix Austin’s deal with his producer (played with a Teflon shield of casualness by Gary Wilmes).
No, what’s really at stake is their very identities, as Austin and Lee become increasingly exaggerated versions of their scrapping, younger selves. It’s a process rendered by Mr. Hawke and Mr. Dano with devastatingly defensive body language.
A moment when Lee playfully, nastily dangles the car keys he’s taken from Austin feels potentially lethal. And all the while a blanket of nerve-twanging noise — chirping crickets, yipping coyotes, even children at play — seems not to connect but to isolate the brothers from the rest of the world. (Bray Poor’s sound design is inspired.)
The end of the first act left me breathless. The second act — the celebrated, hilarious, tearing-down-the-house part — felt slightly off its rhythms at the preview performance I saw. It’s not that the evermore violent, frenzied and deliciously absurd action (I love the slew of stolen toasters) isn’t impeccably staged. But Mr. Dano was nailing the moves without making that final, essential leap into the void, and the tension sagged. I suspect he’ll get there as the play’s run continues.
Mr. Hawke is already delivering a faultless performance, probably his best ever onstage and a worthy bookend to his Oscar-deserving turn as a faith-challenged priest in Paul Schrader’s recent film “First Reformed.” His slovenly, combustible Lee is revealed to be as terrified as he is terrifying, in ways you can’t help identifying with.
Lee, by the way, has his own idea for a movie, a western. It’s a story of men chasing each other across a desert, in the dark.
“They don’t know each one of ’em is afraid, see,” Lee says in a hypnotic monologue. “Each one separately thinks he’s the only one that’s afraid. And they keep riding like that straight into the night.” That’s a perfect précis of “True West,” a play that seems to grow in disturbing depth every time it comes back to haunt us.
白姐报码网【山】【外】【镇】【的】【镇】【长】【也】【没】【有】【选】【择】【逃】【跑】，【因】【为】【山】【外】【镇】【的】【镇】【长】【已】【经】【发】【现】【了】【对】【方】【有】【一】【个】【是】【真】【武】【境】【界】【第】【一】【重】【的】【强】【者】，【有】【一】【个】【是】【真】【武】【境】【界】【第】【二】【重】【的】【强】【者】，【更】【有】【一】【个】【是】【真】【武】【境】【界】【第】【三】【重】【的】【强】【者】。 【他】【们】【三】【个】【之】【中】【随】【便】【来】【一】【个】【他】【都】【打】【不】【过】，【更】【不】【要】【说】【三】【个】【一】【起】【来】【了】。 【山】【外】【镇】【的】【镇】【长】【已】【经】【年】【老】【了】，【此】【时】【他】【的】【战】【斗】【力】【已】【经】【大】【大】【的】【下】【降】【了】，【他】【只】
【凌】【檬】【和】【苏】【晨】【两】【人】【就】【这】【样】【在】【爱】【丽】【丝】【的】【别】【墅】【里】【等】【着】，【爱】【丽】【丝】【去】【忙】【公】【务】【了】，【德】【莱】【尔】【也】【不】【知】【道】【去】【了】【哪】【里】。 【到】【了】【傍】【晚】，【德】【莱】【尔】【回】【来】【了】，【爱】【丽】【丝】【却】【仍】【然】【不】【见】【踪】【影】。 “【德】【莱】【尔】【先】【生】。”【凌】【檬】【笑】【着】【和】【德】【莱】【尔】【打】【招】【呼】，【苏】【晨】【就】【跟】【在】【他】【身】【后】，【牵】【着】【他】【的】【手】。 【德】【莱】【尔】【对】【两】【人】【点】【点】【头】，【佣】【人】【过】【来】【把】【德】【莱】【尔】【的】【外】【套】【和】【帽】【子】【拿】【去】【挂】【着】，【德】【莱】
【等】【到】【那】【道】【身】【影】【消】【失】【后】，【工】【厂】【里】【的】【一】【切】【又】【恢】【复】【了】。 【而】【此】【时】，【阿】【伯】【特】【实】【际】【上】【是】【有】【些】【后】【悔】。 【因】【为】【他】【能】【够】【感】【觉】【到】，【对】【方】【应】【该】【会】【要】【逃】【离】。 【既】【然】【丹】【尼】【尔】【已】【经】【将】【钥】【匙】【给】【了】【阿】【伯】【特】。 【对】【方】【已】【经】【可】【以】【确】【定】，【他】【无】【法】【夺】【回】【钥】【匙】【的】【情】【况】【下】，【想】【要】【保】【住】【机】【械】【心】【脏】【的】【另】【一】【半】，【就】【必】【须】【要】【选】【择】【逃】【离】，【尽】【量】【地】【远】【离】【阿】【伯】【特】。 “【还】【真】【的】
【宁】【伯】【坚】【有】【些】【哭】【笑】【不】【得】【地】【道】， “【你】【们】【放】【心】【吧】，【他】【是】‘【华】【山】【七】【杰】’【的】【老】【六】，【是】【位】【大】【侠】，【如】【果】【他】【真】【是】【存】【心】【搞】【事】【情】【来】【了】，【别】【说】【就】【你】【们】【这】【些】【人】、【就】【是】【再】【来】【你】【们】【这】【么】【多】【人】【都】【阻】【止】【不】【了】【他】。【你】【们】【呐】，【还】【是】【好】【好】【的】【去】【把】【守】【住】【衙】【门】【口】【好】【了】，【别】【再】【稀】【里】【糊】【涂】【地】【就】【让】【人】【给】【进】【来】【了】！” “【是】【嘞】！” 【那】【些】【差】【役】【们】【答】【应】【一】【声】【转】【身】【都】【走】【了】。 白姐报码网【涂】【澈】【去】【将】【涂】【绒】【绒】【烤】【乳】【猪】【的】【炭】【火】【给】【熄】【灭】【了】，【又】【把】【煤】【炉】【里】【的】【煤】【炭】【也】【给】【弄】【灭】【了】【以】【后】【这】【才】【坐】【下】【来】，【看】【着】【面】【前】【的】【烤】【乳】【猪】【道】，“【看】【起】【来】【很】【不】【错】【的】【样】【子】，【味】【道】【很】【香】。” “【当】【然】。”【涂】【绒】【绒】【仰】【起】【头】【道】，“【来】【来】【来】，【我】【们】【开】【始】【吃】【了】。” “【这】【样】，【把】【猪】【皮】【给】【切】【下】【来】，【撕】【下】【来】【也】【可】【以】，【然】【后】【蘸】【上】【各】【自】【喜】【欢】【的】【酱】【料】，【用】【生】【菜】【叶】【子】【或】【者】【是】【我】【刚】
【又】【在】【村】【里】【坟】【场】【饱】【餐】【一】【顿】【的】【佩】【罗】【娜】【表】【示】，【坟】【场】【祭】【品】【真】【心】【不】【错】。 【村】【民】【供】【奉】【祖】【先】【的】【祭】【品】【铺】【张】【还】【算】【奢】【侈】，【祭】【品】【中】【瓜】【果】【糖】【饼】【比】【较】【常】【见】，【偶】【然】【还】【能】【吃】【到】【鸡】【腿】，【美】【滋】【滋】。 【要】【不】【是】【刚】【才】【碰】【见】【了】【自】【己】【的】【死】【敌】——【阴】【险】【卑】【鄙】、【无】【耻】【狡】【诈】、【长】【相】【丑】【陋】、【古】【怪】【恶】【心】【的】【极】【恶】【之】【源】——【蟑】【螂】！ 【吓】【得】【差】【点】【发】【出】【猪】【叫】【的】【佩】【罗】【娜】【保】【证】，【肯】
【十】【二】【月】【四】【日】，【驻】【扎】【在】【左】【塞】【全】【境】【的】【海】【军】【全】【部】【启】【程】，【向】【着】【蛋】【糕】【岛】【的】【方】【向】【靠】【近】，【一】【艘】【艘】【巨】【型】【战】【舰】【如】【同】【海】【上】【长】【城】，【连】【绵】【不】【断】。 【三】【万】【前】【锋】【军】，【由】【海】【军】【大】【将】【中】【最】【懒】【的】【黄】【猿】【以】【及】【前】【海】【军】【大】【将】【库】【赞】【带】【领】，【随】【之】【一】【同】【出】【发】【的】【还】【有】【曾】【经】【的】【海】【军】【总】【教】【官】，【前】【海】【军】【大】【将】【泽】【法】。 【听】【到】【这】【个】【消】【息】【后】，【大】【妈】【立】【即】【命】【令】【炎】【灾】【烬】、【黑】【龙】【罗】【伯】【茨】【两】【人】【带】【领】