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True West Opens this Weekend

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

The Second Sam Shepard show to be produced by the Cumberland Theatre takes the stage Thursday.

The Cumberland Theatre will continue its 34th Main Stage Season with Sam Shepard's celebrated play True West. The play - which some say is Shepard's best - is part of a trilogy, which also includes Fool For Love, which was also produced by the Cumberland Theatre in 2018.

Performed all over the world and translated into 10 different languages, this American classic explores alternatives that might spring from the

demented terrain of the California landscape. Sons of a desert-dwelling alcoholic and a suburban wanderer clash over a film script. Austin, the achiever, is working on a script he has sold to producer Sal Kimmer when Lee, a demented petty thief, drops in. He pitches his own idea for a movie to Kimmer, who then wants Austin to junk his bleak, modern love story and write Lee's trashy Western tale.

The brothers find themselves forced to cooperate in the creation of a story that will make or break both their lives. In the process, the conflict between the brothers creates a heated situation in which their roles as successful family man and nomadic drifter are somehow reversed.

Of the play, Shepard said, "I wanted to write a play about double nature, one that wouldn't be symbolic or metaphorical or any of that stuff. I just wanted to give a taste of what it feels like to be two-sided. It's a real thing, double nature. I think we're split in a much more devastating way than psychology can ever reveal. It's not so cute. Not some little thing we can get over. It's something we've got to live with."

True West was first performed at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, where Shepard was the resident playwright. It had its world premiere there on July 10, 1980. Since then, it has been produced at Steppenwolf Theatre with Gary Sinise (who also directed the production) and John Malkovich playing the leads, two Off-Broadway runs which starred such actors as Tommy Lee Jones, Peter Boyle, James Belushi, Gary Cole, Tim Matheson, Erik Estrada, Dennis Quaid and Randy Quaid.

More recent years have seen the show return to Broadway in both 2000 (which starred John C. Reilly and the late Phillip Seymore Hoffman) and 2018 (which featured Ethan Hawk and Paul Dano).

The CT version stars Bill Dennison and Seth Thompson as Austin and Lee under the direction of Kimberli Rowley. Dennison was last seen as David in the musical Company. Thompson last appeared as the titular role in Macbeth. Also appearing will be Tim Bambara and Luann Lancaster. Bambara was last seen on the CT stage in Miracle on 34th Street. Lancaster is making her CT debut.

Production staff includes Rhett Wolford (set design), Joshua Taylor (lighting design), Jennifer Clark (costume design), Trevor McCabe and Joel Hoover (props design), Darrell Rushton (fight director), Em Uranga (stage manager) and Ebony Gennes (assistant stage manager). Run crew includes Elizabeth Mudge, Thomas Kifer and Trevor McCabe.

True West will be performed June 9th - 19th with Thursday - Saturday shows at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm. There will be a complimentary wine and cheese party following the opening night performance on Friday, June 10th.

Tickets are available at or by calling the box office at 301.759.4990. Please note the show contain violence and mild language. Parental discretion is encouraged.

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