Sunday, May 2, 2010

Go fight outside! Balagan's "True West" is a smash

A Hello Kitty toaster gave its life for comedy at Balagan Theatre Saturday night. The innocent kitchen appliance and a vintage Smith-Corona typewriter were among the many things destroyed during the final performance of Sam Shepard's True West, directed by Shawn Belyea and Tim Hyland.

Brothers Austin (Chris Bell, left) and
Lee (Mike Dooly) have some issues
with each other during Balagan
Theatre's production of
True West.
Photo: Andrea Huysing.
Chris Bell and Mike Dooly star as the two brothers, Austin and Lee. Bell's Austin is a successful screenwriter, housesitting for his vacationing mother while working on his next project. His peace and quiet is interrupted by Dooly's Lee, a petty thief and a drunk who has popped in to mom's neighborhood to steal a few things and be on his way.

Things go a bit awry. During a golf match Lee convinces Austin's producer, Saul Kimmer (played by Belyea) to drop Austin's project in favor of his own cockamamie Western tale of two dimwits chasing each other across Texas. The brothers' epic struggle over who's the better man, fueled by mass quantities of PBR, Old No. 7, and bubbly, grows increasingly violent and threatening. Lee says screenwriting is way easier than a life of crime, and bets Austin he couldn't even steal a toaster. The next morning, Austin has at least a dozen of them, including the doomed Hello Kitty model, which meets its end, as does the typewriter and much of the set, at the end of a five iron. But not before Austin has made plenty of yummy toast!

A toaster just like this one gave its
all during the final performance of
Balagan Theatre's
True West.
Dooly and Bell are great, Balagan favorites who really get into these great characters, and into smashing things. The hilarity of the situation reaches a fever pitch when their mom (Betty Campbell) returns home to her house in ruins, and can only lament that Austin forgot to water her plants (they're strewn all over the stage with the rest of the debris) and urges the boys to go fight outside.

Alas, you cannot see True West any more, as Saturday's performance was the last. We got the impression that the brothers may have been a bit more enthusiastic in their destruction on closing night, knowing that the set didn't have to be put back together for another show tomorrow. In fact, the crew was busy at work dismantling the stage within 10 minutes of the end, preparing to build in the final show in Balagan's 10-play season, an adaptation of Oedipus by the theater's company members. We can't wait for that!

FULL DISCLOSURE: Weisenheimer is chair of the board at Balagan, but it doesn't mean I'm biased!

No comments: