Saturday, May 31, 2014

True West

The Dark Side of Saturn Productions is presenting Sam Shepard's True West at the Orlando Shakespeare Center. I was surprised by the intricate set by Tom Mangieri. I had just been in the Mandell Theater multiple times at Fringe and got used to seeing a bare stage. Fringe just ended two days ago, so this set was created incredibly fast. This was the first time the actors got to move around in the actual space. Director Kevin Becker was in the audience seating while Chaz Krivan who plays Austin, and Cory Volence who plays Lee sat at the breakfast nook table on stage.  Lighting levels were being adjusted, so the actors got to relax for a bit.

After all the lights were adjusted, Bill Warriner, the fight director, put the actors through the paces as they fought in the kitchen. The fight began with Austin breaking a beer bottle over Lee's head. He then slammed Lee into the counter. As Lee lay on the floor recovering, Austin grabbed an electrical chord and wrapped it around Lee's throat. Now, this was a rehearsal, and the action was supposed to be at 1/4 speed. The safe word for Cory was "Hold". He called out to stop the action several times. He stopped the action when he was slammed into the refrigerator, because he was concerned it might topple over. He was concerned that Chaz was getting too aggressive. In a staged fight, both actors need to feel they are in control of the action. In the heat of the moment, the fight accelerated. There was a long moment where Austin was chocking Lee. Lee's face was beet red as he struggled. Was he struggling to say the safe word? Was this acting, or had the fight crossed over the fourth wall? Austin said, "I could easily kill him, all I have to do is twist." Lee's eyes bulged in his head before he fell limp to the floor.

After the fight rehearsal, there was a full run through of the play. Tara Rewis picked up the broken glass and other refuge had to be cleaned up before the play could begin.  Dorothy Massey who did costuming, had to help Cory figure out how to use his belt. "This is why I get paid the big bucks!" she joked.

The play is about two brothers, Austin and Lee.  Austin was writing a screenplay while he watched his mother's home. She was on vacation in Alaska. Lee,who is the black sheep of the family, showed up wanting to drink beer, borrow Austin's car and in general cause mischief. He had a knack for bullying, scheming or stealing anything that he wants. Arguments erupted but, despite their differences, these brothers did care about each other, or they would do just about anything to steal each others lives. When Hollywood agent, Saul, played by Jim Cundiff comes to the home to check the progress on Austin's screenplay, Lee schemed his way into convincing Saul that his true life experiences in the desert would make for a great screenplay. The brothers collaborated on writing the script outline but the writing sessions never went smoothly. When the mom, played by Barbara Blake, returned home, she found the house a mess. Her crowning moment came when she grabbed a bottle of rum off the table to spare it when the brother's brawled.

This was a powerful drama that dives deep to explore the relationship between brothers who are polar opposites, yet united by a dark past. If you are missing the mad rush of Fringe, then head to the Shakes to see True West. Nothing beats a hangover like a nice cold beer. Don't miss it!

The Mandell Theater
Orlando Shakespeare Center

812 E Rollins St, Orlando, FL

May 31 at 8PM
June 2, 6, 7, 8 at 8PM

Tickets are:
$16 in Advance
$20 at Door
$15 at the Door with a Fringe Button

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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