"True West" was the first Sam Shepard play that director Asher Johnson had ever read, and Shepard's passing in 2017 brought it back to the front of his mind as a potential show for the Susquehanna Stage Company's (SSC) 2018 lineup. "It's about two brothers, and Sam Shepard deals with the identity behind the word 'truth,'" Johnson relayed. "It's kind of a strange mixture of absurd realism, and it's very much a character piece. You get to learn a lot about the brothers."
Austin, who will be portrayed by Kevin Ditzler, is a hardworking screenwriter with a wife and family, whereas his older brother, Lee, played by Tim Riggs, is a drifter.
Riggs said that his character spends much of his life in survival mode. "Lee comes to his mother's homestead in search of something for his survival, and his brother, Austin, is there taking care of the home and working at his movie career," explained Riggs, adding that Lee strongly identifies with his father, who is referred to as "the old man" and is not an onstage character.
Ditzler described the brothers as complete opposites in the way they approach the world, having each taken a different approach to an embattled past. "This is a roller coaster that starts running out of control as the characters fray," stated Ditzler. "People will identify with the family dysfunction, especially since we're just coming off the holidays."
In addition to showcasing sibling rivalry and family dysfunction, Ditzler and Riggs said the show is an embodiment of the creative brain: Austin representing the scientific side of things with his bent toward careful research, and Lee the more artistic and abstract side, as he is naturally inclined to better storytelling. "Some people say ('True West') is Sam Shepard's own inner battle articulated," said Ditzler.
According to Riggs, "True West" is filled with plenty of dark humor that will keep audience members laughing amidst the brothers' battles and breakthroughs. "It moves really quickly, and it has a twisted edge to it that's very fun," Ditzler noted.
Georgie Reardon will play the boys' mother, and Ken Seigh will portray Saul, a producer working with Austin.
"There are four total cast members, which is an awesome thing," remarked Johnson. "I was a little worried about doing this show, because it requires really good actors. But all four of these (cast members) are some of the most talented people in the area."
"True West" will be performed at SSC, located at the rear of 264 W. Market St., Marietta, at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 18; Fridays, Jan. 12 and 19; and Saturdays, Jan. 13 and 20, as well as at 2 p.m. on Sundays, Jan. 14 and 21. Interested individuals may purchase tickets at http://www.susquehannastageco.com or at the box office prior to each performance. To learn more, readers may call 717-426-1277.