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True West


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A: Sam Shepard Pf: 1980, San Francisco Pb: 1981 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Kitchen and alcove, southern Californian suburban home, 1970s C: 3m, 1fAustin is a moderately successful screenwriter in his early thirties, who is living in his mother's house, while she is on holiday. He is surprised by the arrival of his older brother Lee, a drifter and petty criminal. Austin meets the Hollywood producer Saul Kimmer, who expresses interest in Austin's story. Lee arrives back with a stolen television set, invites Saul to a game of golf, and suggests that he might supply him with a real-life, ‘true west’ story. Lee gets Austin to type his story of the rivalry between two cowboys. The game of golf is a success, and Lee manages to sell his story to Saul, who now asks Austin to work on his brother's script. Angry at being ousted by his brother, Austin goes out and steals toasters, while Lee tries to write the story himself. Austin relents and agrees to script Lee's story if Lee will promise to take him to the desert with him. In a drunken bout, Lee smashes up his mother's kitchen and Austin's typewriter. Their mother arrives back unexpectedly to discover the mess they have made. Lee decides he has had enough and prepares to leave, but Austin insists that Lee must finish his story. Lee punches Austin, and Austin almost strangles Lee. Mom leaves, disgusted at their violence. Austin releases the inert Lee, but just as Austin is about to leave, Lee blocks his path. Blackout.

A: Sam Shepard Pf: 1980, San Francisco Pb: 1981 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Kitchen and alcove, southern Californian suburban home, 1970s C: 3m, 1f

This is one of the less overtly theatrical pieces by Shepard, depicting in realistic dialogue the hostility but mutual dependence of the two brothers. In some ways they reflect the conflict within Shepard himself between the carefree amoral drifter and the sensitive writer: ‘I just wanted to give a taste of what it feels like to be double-sided.’

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights) — Theatre.


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