True West at Ridgefield Theater Barn & Tony Awards Comments

 “Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater and film critic by night- bringing my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.

Before I get to my theater review this week, I want to say a few words about Broadway’s Tony Awards Sunday night.

This past season really dropped off when compared with the previous two seasons that produced the musicals ‘Dear Evan Hansen,’ Hamilton,’ ‘Come From Away,’ ‘School of Rock’ and ‘Groundhog Day’- to name just a handful.

So, let’s face it. This wasn’t a great year for musicals. The Best Musical nominees may be good- but none are great.

‘The Band’s Visit’ winning Best Musical- and another 9 awards- is really proof it was a subpar year. I say that to caution you before you run to buy tickets to see it. As I said in my review a few months ago, ‘The Band’s Visit’ has been over-hyped. It is merely pretty good.

I was happy to see the lovely and talented Katrina Lenk win Best Actress- but I thought she really deserved it last year for ‘Indecent.’

Kudos to the team that brought ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ to Broadway from London as it won 6 awards(no surprise), including Best Play.

Another winner, also expected, was ‘Angels in America’ which won Best Revival of a Play.’

And congratulations to Ken Davenport, who I know pretty well and whose ‘Once on this Island’ won Best Revival of a Musical- which might have been the only surprise of the night.

 l to r: Chris Luongo (Austin); Anthony Barresi (Lee)

Speaking of surprises, this past weekend I saw Ridgefield Theater Barn’s production of ‘True West’ – an American classic which I hadn’t seen in over a decade by the celebrated writer Sam Shepard, who died last year.

The big surprise here is how strong the two lead actors are: Anthony Barresi, as Lee, is a force to be reckoned with and nothing short of sensational!

Easily one of the best Connecticut performances I have seen in a long time. And Chris Luongo as Lee’s brother, Austin, is also top shelf- and I use the alcohol metaphor intentionally, as this play features a lot of boozing by the brothers.

As Shepard wrote it- and here under Erik Tonner’s smart direction- ‘True West’ takes sibling rivalry to new heights… or depths, depending how you want to view it.

As the play opens, Austin- who is house sitting for his mother while she is on vacation in Alaska- appears to be at least a somewhat accomplished screenwriter with a wife and kids, working on his typewriter (the play appears to be set when it was first produced- in 1980).

This is in contrast to his brother, Lee, who is a low level hustler and petty thief who talks vaguely of bigger plans and ideas.

But, as the play unfolds, the Hollywood producer- played by Dan Forman- who was working with Austin becomes interested in a movie idea Lee has… and he drops Austin’s idea to back Lee’s instead, This, naturally, infuriates Austin and he rapidly descends into a drunken depression diatribe at his brother.

 Show photos by Paulette Layton

The sibling rivalry becomes more complex as we see both brothers are envious of each other- and their roles begin a complete reversal. They start to become each other and end up trashing their mother’s house while Austin contemplates trashing his family life to live- with Lee- in the desert.

‘True West’ is a gritty drama and, with a scene of violence towards the end, it might not be to everyone’s taste. But kudos to

Ridgefield Theater Barn for producing it as I found it compelling- particularly because of Anthony Barresi’s and Chris Luongo’s tough, physical performances and I give it 4 stars out of 5. It runs through June 23th. Go to Ridgefield Theater Barn dot org for more info.

Catch my reviews right here this time each week and on my Facebook page and website, Katz Reviews dot com, where you will find all my WICC 600 reviews.

This is Ed Katz talking theater for WICC 600!”

4 Comments

  1. Denise

    We saw this last Saturday. Anthony is better than most “big time” actors today. Mark my words, he’ll be famous one day. It was as a fantastic show at a great venue.

  2. Very nice job, Ed. All of us at Westchester’s Axial Theatre and its affiliated Howard Meyer’s Acting (HMA) Program are thrilled to see that half the cast of “True West” — Anthony Barresi and Dan Forman — are alumni of the HMA program. It speaks to the excellence of acting teachers Howard Meyer and Rachel Jones, whom Anthony and Dan have studied under. It’s even more gratifying to read your rave comments about Anthony’s acting chops. We look forward to the day we all can say, “We knew him when..!” (If you don’t mind, Ed, just one grammatical cavil about the internal redundancy of the word “over-hyped.” Since hype in this context means to over-state or even to deceive, it doesn’t require further amplification.)

    • Ed Katz

      Hi Bruce,
      Thanks for the comments! Yes, Anthony gave a terrific performance!
      Kudos to your program and teachers!
      I take slight umbrage (not really) at your note about my use of “over-hyped.” Please see the first two definitions of “hyped” here: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/hyped.
      In both these cases there is no implication of “questionable claims”- as noted in the third definition- so I feel justified in saying “over-hyped,” as that makes my intent crystal clear. (When in doubt I tend to take a colloquial approach over a formal one.) I hope you can appreciate my perspective on this.
      Thanks, again, for reading- and writing!

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