Gloucester Stage Company continues its 39th season of professional theater with Sam Shepard’s modern American classic, True West from August 17 through September 8 at Gloucester Stage Company, 267 East Main Street, Gloucester, MA. Directed by Joe Short, True West explores the explosive conflict between two brothers: Austin, the successful family man; and Lee, the nomadic drifter and petty thief. Set in the kitchen of their mother’s home 40 miles east of Los Angeles, these sons of a desert-dwelling alcoholic and a suburban wanderer clash over a film script. Austin, the achiever, is working on a screenplay he has sold to producer Sal Kimmer when his brother Lee drops in. Lee pitches his own idea for a movie to Kimmer, who then wants Austin to junk his bleak, modern love story and write Lee’s trashy Western tale. The conflict between the brothers creates a heated situation in which their roles as successful family man and nomadic drifter are somehow reversed, and each man finds himself admitting that he had somehow always wished he were in the other’s shoes. The cast features GSC veterans Nael Nacer as Lee; Mark Cohen as film producer Sal Kimmer and Marya Lowry as Mom and GSC newcomer Alexander Platt as Austin.
True West had its world premiere on July 10, 1980 at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, where Mr. Shepard was the resident playwright. The world premiere was directed by Robert Woodruff and featured Peter Coyote (Austin) and Jim Haynie (Lee). On December 23, 1980, it opened at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater in New York City, starring Tommy Lee Jones (Austin) and Peter Boyle (Lee). In 1982, it was revived at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago featuring then-unknown actors Gary Sinise (who also directed the production) and John Malkovich. The Steppenwolf production transferred to the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York where it enjoyed a run of 762 performances. After Sinise and Malkovich left the production, the leads roles were played by a variety of well-known actors including Jim Belushi, Erik Estrada, Gary Cole, Dennis Quaid and Randy Quaid. On March 2, 2000, a Broadway revival of True West opened at the Circle on the Square Theatre featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly, who alternated playing the lead roles. This critically acclaimed production earned Tony Award nominations for best actor (for both Hoffman and Reilly), best director, and best play.
American author, actor, director, and playwright Sam Shepard published over forty plays in his lifetime. Winner of eleven Obie awards (the most received by any writer or director), and of the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Buried Child, Sam Shepard ranks as one of America’s most celebrated dramatists. Sam Shepard had his first New York plays, Cowboys and The Rock Garden, produced by Theatre Genesis in 1963. For several seasons, he worked with Off-Off-Broadway theatre groups including La MaMa and Caffe Cino. Eleven of his plays have won Obie Awards including Chicago and Icarus’s Mother (1965); Red Cross and La Turista (1966); Forensic and the Navigators and Melodrama Play (1967); The Tooth Of Crime (1972); Action (1974); and Curse of the Starving Class (1976). Mr. Shepard was awarded a Pulitzer Prize as well as an Obie Award for his play Buried Child (1979). Fool for Love (1982) received the Obie for Best Play as well as for Direction. A Lie of the Mind (1985) won the 1986 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award and the 1986 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Play. A revival of Buried Child under the direction of Gary Sinise opened on Broadway in April 1996 and was nominated for a Tony Award. Kicking A Dead Horse (2007) and Ages of the Moon (2009) both received their world premieres at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Kicking A Dead Horse transferred to The Public Theater in New York and to the Almeida Theatre in London, and Ages of the Moon received its US premiere at Atlantic Theater Company. Mr. Shepard wrote the screenplays for Zabriskie Point; Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas; and Robert Altman’s Fool for Love, a film version of his play of the same title. As an actor he has appeared in the films Days of Heaven, Resurrection, Raggedy Man, The Right Stuff, Frances, Country, Fool for Love, Crimes of the Heart, Baby Boom, Steel Magnolias, Bright Angel, Defenseless, Voyager, Thunderheart, The Pelican Brief, Safe Passage, and Hamlet. In 1986, Mr. Shepard was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1992, he received the Gold Medal for Drama from the Academy, and in 1994, he was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. After his death in 2017, Mr. Shepard’s plays have remained a prominent part of the theater community.
Nael Nacer returns to GSC to play Lee after performing in 2017’s Bank Job and 2015’s The Flick for which he received the IRNE Award for Best Actor. New England area credits include: A Doll’s House; Bedroom Farce; Come Back, Little Sheba; Awake and Sing!, Our Town, and The Seagull with the Huntington Theatre Company; Constellations, Distracted, Sila with Central Square Theater; Calendar Girls at Greater Boston Theatre Company; 45 Plays for 45 Presidents, It’s a Wonderful Life: a Live Radio Play at Merrimack Repertory Theatre; Shear Madness at Charles Playhouse; Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play, Intimate Apparel for which he received Elliot Norton Award for Best Actor, The Temperamentals, and Animal Crackers at Lyric Stage Company; A Number, Pattern of Life, Lungs, The Kite Runner with New Repertory Theatre; A Future Perfect and Tribes at SpeakEasy Stage
Company; Rhinoceros, Windowmen, and Gary at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre; The Aliens, LovePerson, 1001, and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot with Company One. His next project is the title role in Macbeth at Actors’ Shakespeare Project this October. Mr. Nacer is a monologue coach for My College Audition.
Alexander Platt makes his GSC debut as Austin in True West. His credits include Social Creatures, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Mourners Bench, and Love Alone at Trinity Rep; Stage Kiss and Chinglish with Lyric Stage Company; Hamlet with Actor’s Shakespeare Project; Miss Holmes,Neville’s Island, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at Greater Boston Stage Company; Hedda Gabler, Far Away, Festen, Paul, Why Torture is Wrong… and Don Carlos at Gamm Theatre; Arcadia and Insignificance with Nora Theatre; The Forgetting Curve with Bridge Rep of Boston; The Etymology ofBird with Providence Black Rep; King Stag and Possible Worlds at Elemental Theatre; Bad Money and Falling Up with Perishable Theatre; andThe Pathological Passion of the Christ with La Mama Etc. Mr. Platt served as the Artistic Director of Elemental Theatre Collective in Providence, RI from 2006-2012 and has an MFA in acting from Trinity Rep Conservatory.
Mark Cohen last appeared at Gloucester Stage in 2016’s Lettice and Lovage. His recent roles include Marius in The Road to Mecca and Uncle Peck in How I Learned to Drive at the Boston Center for American Performance; Salter in A Number at Whistler in the Dark and Watson in The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence in Brown Summer Rep Season 2015. He also appeared in Inmotion Theatre’s The Journey, and with many other local theatres, including Israeli Stage, Boston Playwright’s Theatre, and Sleeping Weazel. Mr. Cohen is the solo performer in Abuela Luna’s Emmy-nominated film Shakespeare in the Shadows currently airing on PBS stations nationwide. He has been on the full-time faculty at Boston University for 12 years.
Marya Lowry’s previous appearances at GSC include 2016’s Lettice and Lovage for which she earned a IRNE Nomination for Best Supporting Actress and 2015’s The New Electric Ballroom which received the Elliot Norton Award for Best Ensemble. Ms. Lowry’s credits include Brutus inJulius Caesar, Prospero in The Tempest, the title role in Macbeth, The Cherry Orchard, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Cymbeline, Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, Duchess of Malfi, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, and Richard III with Actors’ Shakespeare Project as well as appearances at the Gamm Theatre, SpeakEasy Stage Company, Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, American Repertory Theater, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Merrimack Repertory Theatre and New Repertory Theatre. She has been a Featured Performer and Narrator with the Boston Pops and the Handel & Haydn Society at Symphony Hall, and the Cantata Singers at Jordan Hall. Ms. Lowry’s international and regional credits include The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey; Barter Theatre; NYC’s Riverside Shakespeare Company; Luminato Festival, Toronto; Roy Hart International Arts Centre, France; and a Bulgarian singing tour with Divi Zheni. She teaches locally at Brandeis University and internationally in Greece, France, Italy, Poland, Cyprus, United Kingdom, and Canada. Ms. Lowry is a spiritual mentor to incarcerated women.
Director Joe Short is a professional actor, teacher, and production artist. His directing credits include columbinus at URI, The Winter’s Tale at RIC, and Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh at Providence College. As an actor he appeared at GSC in 2017’s The Rainmaker. His recent acting roles include Brutus in Julius Caesar and Richard in The Lover for Bridge Rep of Boston; George Tesman in Hedda Gabler, Man #3 in The Big Meal, Ray Dooley in The Beauty Queen of Leenane, William Tyndale/George Villiers in Anne Boleyn, Lars in Festen and Guildenstern/Francisco in Hamlet at the Gamm Theatre; Henry in Rich Girl at the Lyric Stage; Tom in These Shining Lives at Stoneham Theatre; Gordon in Strange Interlude at Shakespeare Theatre of DC; Lord Dumaine in All’s Well That Ends Well at Commonwealth Shakespeare Company; Balthasar in The Merchant of Venice at Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival; Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol at Trinity Rep; Aston in The Caretaker, Andrew Jackson in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Padraic in The Lieutenant of Inishmore at The Wilbury Theatre Group. Mr. Short is an M.F.A. graduate of the Brown/Trinity Rep Consortium and earned a B.F.A. at the University of Rhode Island.
Sam Shepard’s True West runs from August 17 through September 8 at Gloucester Stage. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 pm; Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 pm. Following the 2 pm performances on Sunday, August 26 and Sunday, September 2, audiences are invited to free post-show discussions with the artists from True West. Single ticket prices are $35 to $45 with discounts available for Preview Performances, Cape Ann Residents, Senior Citizens and Patrons 18 years old and under. In addition to regular reserved tickets, Pay What You Wish tickets are available for the Saturday, August 18 matinee at 2 pm. Pay What You Wish tickets can only be purchased day of show at the door. All performances are held at 267 East Main Street, Gloucester, MA. For more information about Gloucester Stage, or to purchase tickets, call the Box Office at 978-281-4433 or visit gloucesterstage.com.