Archive for April, 2019

Sibling Rivalry On Steroids As “True West” Takes Over STLAS Stage

April 18, 2019
True-oncounter

Isaiah Di Lorenzo as Lee towers over William Humphrey as Austin in “True West” at St. Louis Actors’ Studio. Photo: Patrick Huber

Brothers Lee and Austin are always entertaining gents to visit and this time St. Louis Actors’ Studio is presenting them in Sam Shepard’s “True West.” Could there be any siblings with more dysfunction than these two? Thanks to a top notch cast, this fast moving play delights and shocks us until the final? confrontation.

True-typing

William Humphrey as Austin tries to work as Isaiah Di Lorenzo as Lee taunts him in the STLAS production of “True West.” Photo: Patrick Huber

Director William Whitaker pulls out all the stops as Lee visits his brother at their mother’s house in Southern California. Mom is vacationing in Alaska and Lee decides he should visit Austin and stir up some old wounds and basically get on his nerves. Austin is in the midst of writing a film script commissioned by an agent, Saul. Lee does everything he can imagine to distract him until Saul finally visits and the brash and charming Lee starts spinning a tale that only a bad agent would love. So Saul dumps Austin’s script and urges Lee to write an outline.

True-toast

Isaiah Di Lorenzo as Lee stuffs toast in his mouth from the toasters Austin has stolen in “True West” at St. Louis Actors’ Studio. Photo: Patrick Huber

Verbal and physical abuse begins until the final confrontation in which Austin is afraid that Lee has finally pushed him to the edge. William Humphrey is the mild mannered Austin but the tables suddenly turn when the con man Lee becomes “top dog” in this rivalry. Playing Lee with a lot of panache and uninhibited exuberance is Isaiah Di Lorenzo. He bounces around the stage, hopping on kitchen counters and literally and figuratively getting into Austin’s face. Discussions of the weather in the desert, who’s the better burglar and even who is the better son sets the chaotic relationship into overdrive.

True-saul

William Roth (r) discusses his decision with William Humphrey as Isaiah Di Lorenzo watches from the background in the STLAS production of “True West.” Photo: Patrick Huber

William Roth plays the lackadaisical Saul who chooses the childish screenplay that he hopes Lee will write over the deep and more philosophical musings of Austin. The brothers’ mom, Susan Kopp, enters in the final scene and it doesn’t take long to see how the brothers became the taunting, selfish young men they’ve become. The entire cast is wonderful but the brothers dominate the evening and they work the audience with a joyous, if often crass, charm.

True-mom

William Humphrey (l) and Isaiah Di Lorenzo (r) explain what happened to Mom’s (Susan Kopp) house in “True West” at St. Louis Actors’ Studio. Photo: Patrick Huber

Patrick Huber’s set design is California clutter with a lot of turquoise and, eventually, clutter. Steve Miller’s lights enhance the surroundings and Andrea Robb’s costumes speak to the characters beautifully. Shaun Sheley gets a special nod for his realistic fight choreography particularly in the final scene.

True-floor

Isaiah Di Lorenzo tries to deal with William Humphrey during the STLAS production of “True West.” Photo: Patrick Huber

If you’ve never seen the brilliant “True West” or any of Sam Shepard’s other equally powerful plays (“Curse Of The Starving Class” and “Buried Child” are considered a perfect trilogy along with “True West”), it’s high time you’ve made the trip to St. Louis Actors’ Studio to see how brilliant this man was. It plays at STLAS through April 28th. Give them a call at 314-458-2978 for tickets or more information.

 

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“Time Stands Still” Explores Relationships And More At New Jewish

April 3, 2019
Time-1

Wendy Greenwood as Sarah checks out James, played by Ben Nordstrom as he peruses her new book of photographs in the New Jewish Theatre production of “Time Stands Still.”

Set in 2009, the Donald Margulies play, “Time Stands Still” focuses on two couples and the relationships through both friendship and long and short love affairs. Like most of Margulies’ work, the main focus is on those dynamics that cause us to fall in and out of love and maybe even in and out of friendship. New Jewish Theatre has brought us a profound production with a tight knit cast.

James and Sarah have been together for years. She is a photographer who is the quintessential recorder of wartime experiences- mainly in the Middle East. She has been recently wounded by a roadside bomb and is recuperating, on crutches, with her long time lover though there’s a hint that the couple may have been estranged before her recent mishap. James is a journalist who seems to be undergoing writer’s block and has lost his lust for adventure. Therein lies the crux of their spotty relationship- she’s been overseas for some time and he’s content with just staying home now that he has left the war torn countries. She, on the other hand, can’t wait to get healed and go back.

Wendy Greenwood is powerful as Sarah. She is caring and loving but can’t figure out if their relationship can last through the different routes their lives have taken. She seems to be content when James suggested getting married and having a baby, but her love for her profession keeps standing in her way. Ben Nordstrom is a bundle of nerves as James between his concern for Sarah’s safety as she recuperates and his wariness for his best friend (and editor for both of their work) Richard. Besides his insistence on James cracking out a new article by the end of the week, there’s the problem with Richard having hooked up with a “sweet young thing,” Mandy. Both James and Sarah agree at the outset that this just isn’t going to work out well for Richard.

Stage (and New Jewish Theatre) veteran, Jerry Vogel, is full of vim and vigor at his new found youth. He tries to mend some of the hurt that he sees in his old friends but at times seems a bit too giddy over his romantic conquest. As Mandy, Eileen Engel is rock steady. Though coming across as a bit naive to begin with, she soon shows that she can go toe to toe with the “big kids.” This cast of familiar and seasoned actors makes this show click. It’s powerful and heart wrenching and time doesn’t stand still- it seems to fly watching these pros tackle what could be a difficult script to interpret in lesser hands.

Which leads us to the masterful job by director Doug Finlayson who weaves a spell with this story of love, mending both physically and emotionally and friendship that stands the test of time. Scenic designer John Stark has fashioned a small loft apartment in Brooklyn that certainly evokes the period and the people. Michael Sullivan’s lights enhance the production and Michele Siler’s costumes reflect the characters beautifully.

Time-2

Wendy Greenwood as Sarah and Ben Nordstrom as James in “Time Stands Still” at New Jewish Theatre.

“Time Stands Still” is a thought provoking experience led by a cast that drives through the pains and pleasures of complicated relationships. It plays at New Jewish Theatre through April 14th. Give them a call at 314-442-3283 for tickets or more information.