‘True West’ and the central themes.

Blog on True West
Write a blog post that identifies which theme(s) you believe are central to the play. In your post you must consider whether you believe the performance has communicated this theme (or themes) affectively through their use of theatrical semiotics. In other words, how has the director and actors ensured (through the elements of drama such as symbols, gestures, set, lights and so forth) that they have translated the play accurately from page to stage.

One of the main themes that I believe is central in the play True West, is the dynamics of the American family. Most predominantly, the dysfunction that seems to be ever- present. One aspect of the American family that seems to be captured in a magnitude of Hollywood films, as well as in this play, was sibling rivalry and jealousy. Both Austin and Lee seem to have ideas in their minds as to what they thought the other was doing, Lee claiming that he pictured his brother running with “blondes” chasing him, whereas Austin thought that Lee was out on “adventures”. This further sparked a jealousy within the brothers even when they later find out that neither of these images were accurate. The performance communicated this rivalry though the repetitive sound and animal association allocated to either brother, Lee being the coyote and Austin being the domesticated cocker spaniel. I feel as though the director in the stage performance emphasised this aspect of American family dynamics even more so than the written play. The actors, in many scenes were more brutal in both their language that was directed at each other, as well as their extremely physical violent acts and tendencies throughout the play. The stage set and layout at the beginning of the play made it extremely identifiable to see which brother belonged on which side; the outside and wild looking side and the clean, domesticated kitchen. However, the director cleverly communicated this family unrest through slowly merging the two sides throughout the progression of the play. Household items there thrown across the set, as well as the actors physically positioning themselves at their opposite sides of the set, gradually blending the characters into one of the same, leaving the audience unable to differentiate the two sides and which brother belongs to which one.

One of the most physically obvious signs of American family dynamics was the brutal fight between the two brothers at the conclusion of the play, were Austin is strangling Lee with a telephone cord. The mother of the brothers is present throughout this death inducing fight and instead of stepping in to break up the fight, it is as if she is being inconvenienced, and in a frustrated and everyday tone asks them to “go outside and fight”. This displays the ignorance parents can show to their children, playing off violence as ‘just something that siblings do’.

Another aspect that should be recognised in the play as a central theme is that of individuals living in a simulated world where nothing is ever experienced first hand. Much like how Lee is trying to write a movie on the ‘true’ west, the information is being misconstrued and fed to us through fictional sources. To me, I was reminded of this when I was studying the design of the set. The characters were confined to two rooms that was surrounded by a television looking box, which throughout the play, gave me the strong impression that I was watching TV. In addition to this, the music and lighting that was chosen during the ‘dead time’ on stage also gave me this feeling.  I associated the blinding bright lights with advertisement breaks, where you are suddenly jolted out of what you were watching and brought back into real life. It makes me question the quality and truth of the information I am being fed. 

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