Blog About the Play — “True West”
Apr 19, 2024

About the Play — “True West”

Consider the American Dream. Consider the promise that hard work breeds success. Nothing is off the table. As long as you are willing to put in the hours to make it happen, the world is at your fingertips. So, you put your head down and you get to work. You do the best you can to optimize your chances of achieving your goals. You go to a good school. You put yourself out there. You network with the right crowd. Greatness is on the horizon. Then suddenly, your sibling, with practically no effort whatsoever, swoops in, tries their hand, and wins. Poof. Your ambition crumbles and now you start from square one.

Envy. Loathing. Animosity. They are all bubbling at the surface, and it isn’t long before they break through. Enlisted to tend to the plants at his mother’s home while she’s away on vacation, Austin uses house sitting as an opportunity to focus on his next screenplay. The one that has the potential to set him apart from his peers. His concentration is broken when his older brother Lee waltzes in drunk and up to no good. And just like that, after years of living their own lives, the boys are back home.

Ever the opposites, Austin and Lee greet each other with small talk and reacquaint themselves with one another. An Ivy League graduate, Austin’s career in screenwriting has taken off and he is on the cusp of something great with his latest project. Meanwhile, Lee only happened upon their mother’s house because he was making plans to rob the neighborhood. While this is disappointing, Austin is not at all surprised and makes little effort to hinder him. Austin welcomes Lee to stay with him at their mother’s house as long as he is in town and immediately touches a nerve.

Austin’s attempt at kindness is misunderstood for pity. His invitation implies he has been given the upper hand. Mom asked him to watch the house, not Lee. Yet, Lee rejects the need for permission to stay at his own mother’s house. He rejects the need for permission to do anything he wants. Let alone permission from his little brother. Austin, needing time alone in the house, bites his tongue and does his best to restore peace. He’s scored a meeting with big-time Hollywood producer Saul Kimmer and can’t afford for anything to go wrong. Lee agrees to leave, but they remain on shaky ground.

Austin gets his win with Saul after pitching a romantic period piece. His hard work continues to pay off, and the future couldn’t be brighter based on Saul’s response. Just as they begin to finish their meeting, Lee walks in holding a television set. Austin reluctantly introduces the two while simultaneously ushering Saul out. But Lee’s outgoing and bold nature propels the conversation to something more.

After inviting himself to go golfing with Saul, Lee coolly pitches him an idea for a movie. Saul agrees to hear him out, but nothing more. He’s a busy man with many other, more established clients to tend to. And yet, one short golf match later, Saul is undeniably impressed with Lee. So much so that Austin pays the price.

Saul drops Austin’s project and trades it for Lee’s. This small switch pushes Austin over the edge. He drowns himself in alcohol. He resolves to fulfill a true role reversal with his brother by taking a stab at his occupation – robbery. He is no longer calm and composed. He is no longer reasonable and levelheaded. He is no longer willing to try. But Lee, who is now in over is head, needs him. His success completely relies on Austin. He desperately tries to get Austin to write the script for him. He’s never been so close to greatness, and he can’t let it slip through his fingers. He wants the life that Austin has.

A torrent of emotions rips through the brothers as their struggle escalates beyond a few harsh words. They tear into each other with years of resentment surfacing with each blow. All the while their mother’s home falls victim to their reckless rage.

True West explores themes of family, opportunity, and the American Dreams. It examines how siblings compete with and use each other for their own benefits. It illustrates how even two people raised in the same household can become so vastly different from each other. It gives a vivid image to the rivalry that siblings can hold that parents often neglect to acknowledge. As we witness this onstage dynamic power struggle of one family, we are invited to recognize in ourselves the terrible consequences of extreme emotions in our own families and communities. It’s a profound metaphor.