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Capital Stage to open Sam Shepard’s ‘True West’ March 24

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photographs by Barry Wisdom | 

Jonathan Rhys Williams and Cole Alexander Smith star in the Capital Stage production of “True West,” playing March 21-April 22.

Capital Stage continues its inaugural season at its new J Street home with Sam Shepard’s iconic 1980 work "True West," opening March 24, 2012, for a four-week run. Discounted previews are set for March 21-23.

Originally produced by San Francisco’s Magic Circle Theate in 1980 during Shepard’s tenure as the company’s resident playwright, "True West" is a character study exploring the relationship between the Ivy League-educated Austin, a screenwriter, and his older brother Lee, a shiftless, beer-swilling ne’er-do-well. Set in the suburban Southern California home of their mother, for whom Austin is house-sitting, their life-long conflict comes to a head when con-man/thief Lee pushes his way into a picture deal that Austin is pitching to a high-placed Hollywood producer.

"I wanted to write a play about double nature, one that wouldn’t be symbolic or metaphorical or any of that stuff," said Shepard. "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."

Called Shepard’s signature work, "True West" has enjoyed several high-profile productions, including an infamous New York mounting by Joe Papp’s Public Theater starring Tommy Lee Jones (Austin) and Peter Boyle (Lee) in December 1980.

Two years later, Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company staged a revival featuring then-unknown actors Gary Sinise and John Malkovich. That production was transferred to New York’s Cherry Lane Theatre where it ran for 762 performances. A filmed version of this production debuted on the PBS "American Playhouse" series in 1984.

In 2000, a Broadway revival of "True West," featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman (now garnering kudos as Willy Loman in Broadway’s latest incarnation of Arthur Miller’s "Death of a Salesman") and John C. Reilly, opened at the Circle on the Square Theatre. The show earned Tony noms for best actor (both Hoffman and Reilly), best director and best play.

The Capital Stage production features company co-founder Jonathan Rhys Williams as Lee, and Cole Alexander Smith as Austin, along with Eric Baldwin and Capital Stage Associate Artist Janis Stevens. Capital Stage Artistic Director and Co-Founder Stephanie Gularte directs.


WHAT: The Capital Stage production of Sam Shepard’s "True West"

WHERE: Capital Stage, 2215 J St., Sacramento, Calif.

WHEN: Previews 7 p.m. March 21, 8 p.m. March 22 and 23 ($18); opens 8 p.m. March 24 ($38); continues through April 22 with performances at 7 p.m. Wednesdays ($20), 8 p.m. Thursdays ($28), Fridays ($28) and Saturdays ($32), 2 p.m. Sundays ($28)

WHO: Featuring Cole Alexander Smith (Austin), Jonathan Rhys Williams (Lee), Eric Baldwin (Saul Kimmer), Janis Stevens (Mom); directed by Stephanie Gularte

MORE INFO: (916) 995-5464; www.capstage.org

Brothers Austin (Smith) and Lee (Williams) “take a meeting” with producer Saul (Eric Baldwin) in Capital Stage’s “True West.”

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