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True West explores the human psyche

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An AUC production of True West proves successful

The two main characters, played by Benjamin McTigue Conant and Adham James Haddara, represent rivalling siblings Austin and Lee (Photo by Thoraia Abou Bakr)

The two main characters, played by Benjamin McTigue Conant and Adham James Haddara, represent rivalling siblings Austin and Lee
(Photo by Thoraia Abou Bakr)

Last week, the Falaki theatre hosted an AUC production, an enactment of Sam Shepard’s play True West. Shepard wrote the play in 1980, in which he delves into the meaning of the American life and dream and scrutinises the ties that form an American family. It focuses on the sibling rivalry between Austin and Lee. Austin is a successful Hollywood playwright who has a wife and two kids, while Lee is a drifter who always seems to get into trouble.

The play begins with Austin house sitting for his mother while she is away on vacation. Lee also appears at the house, uninvited. It seems that Lee resents his younger brother’s success, while Austin is more apologetic about his life. Lee is also overly sensitive about the subject; when asked if he wanted breakfast, he shouts: “I can take care of myself”.

Austin was played by Benjamin McTigue Conant, while Lee was played by Adham James Haddara. Both Conant and Haddara delivered a well-crafted and engaging performance, and despite the play focusing only on two characters, it was not dull. The real trouble begins when Lee is able to sell a movie to Saul, played by Moustafa Khalil, Austin’s Hollywood producer, which leads to Saul dropping Austin’s movie.

Lee’s movie is a western that revolves around two cowboys chasing each other. Austin criticises the story and deems it “unrealistic” and “idiotic”. However, the chase in Lee’s story is symbolic of the chase between Lee and Austin. At first, Lee seems to be the one chasing Austin, but halfway through, it turns out that it is the other way round.

At the beginning of the play, the idea of murder is introduced by Lee and dismissed by Austin, who said that they were too intelligent to commit murder. Director Gehad El-Shaikh did a great job in setting the scene and playing with the audience’s minds. Even though it was her directorial debut, the play went very smoothly.

Perhaps the most peculiar was the attempted murder scene at the end, in which Austin tries to kill Lee by choking him with the telephone cord in the presence of their mother, played by Noha El-Khouly. At first, it appears as if Austin has succeeded in killing his brother, but before the play ends, Lee rises up again and the two seem to face off.


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