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'True West' Offers Nothing but a Bad Taste

February 27, 1993

I know a play reviewer has a right to his opinion, and I know also that too many playgoers are discouraged from seeing plays by a bad review, but Robert Koehler's review of "True West," now playing at the Laguna Playhouse, was so far off the mark in praising the play itself that I have to demur ("Riding to the Rescue in 'True West,' " Jan. 19).

He's right that Andrew Barnicle and Peder Melhuse gave outstanding performances in a community-theater production, but they were victimized along with the rest of us by their material.

Mr. Koehler didn't say what Sam Shepard was up to in this play, but he did say that the actors "create a very good case for this being, if not Shepard's best work, very possibly his funniest."

In that case, Shepard's in deep trouble.

There are a couple of funny lines, but this is not comedy, not even a black comedy; it's just a sick contrivance that leaves a bad taste in your mouth afterward.

Most of us learn by the time we're 30 not to listen to anything anyone says when he or she is drunk, yet virtually the last half of "True West" shows only what a mess two drunks can make of their lives.

What purpose does it serve to hear sentimental tales of a drunken father or to have a preoccupied mother shrug off the mess her grown sons have made and meander on about Picasso making an Elvis-like appearance? Not funny, McGee.

Koehler should have said "Sam Shepard is putting us all on; he obviously hates all of us." One is supposed to have some feeling for someone in a play after it's over; something in a play has to make it seem worthwhile after it's over. There's no one and nothing in "True West."


Laguna Beach


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