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True West (Broadway)

From 46 critic and 257 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Funny, Intense, Great writing

About the show

Opposites attack in this Pulitzer Prize-nominated play about two brothers with more in common than they think. Sam Shepard’s rip-roaring classic returns to Broadway with Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano. More…

Holed up in their mother’s California house, screenwriter Austin (Paul Dano) and lowlife Lee (Ethan Hawke) wrestle with big issues—and each other. Order vs. chaos. Art vs. commerce. Typewriter vs. toaster. Shepard’s drama gleefully detonates our misguided myths of family, identity, and the American Dream.

Broadway News

"The new version, staged by the estimable British director James Macdonald, gives vivid proof that when the stars (figurative and literal) are properly aligned, a great play can still dig its way into your heart (and in this case scratch mercilessly at your funny bone at the same time) no matter how familiar it may be...Macdonald’s production, powered by two actors in top form, peels away all the layers to leave the play’s flesh, blood and bones all brutally exposed." Full Review

On and Off Broadway

“Hawke is powerful as Lee, the angry older brother. And Dano matches that power artfully as he scales the heights and plays the range from docility to savage aggression. The forces are joined, and what we get is thunder and lightning. The end is stunning...There were alternative possible endings, but I bought the one Shepard and MacDonald delivered...This is a major play from a gifted writer, and I’ll wager this is the best production it’s ever had." Full Review


“A top of the line production...A highly entertaining tragicomedy...A complex, multi-layered meditation on the American Dream...Hawke and Dano definitely belong in the ranks of outstanding interpreters of these siblings...The two actors display terrific chemistry...While Macdonald takes a bit too long with his build-up to scenes, he and this cast are presenting us with a production that's good enough to overlook some of the script's failure to provide more of a backstory.” Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"What is necessary in order for 'True West' to work well on stage is to have the right chemistry between the actors playing Lee and Austin. That's where Hawke and Dano come in. They are ideally matched and totally believable as long-sparring siblings...But as the play progresses and everything begins to crumble, that's when the two of them absolutely gleam, giving spot-on performances with perfect timing under James Macdonald's skillful direction." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

“Hawke and Dano are having a riotous time...Nasty but darkly hilarious...Shepard’s genius is that he is able to express his ideas with so much humor. There is a lot to laugh at even as one may cringe from the basic ugliness of what we are witnessing...Macdonald has staged the play with comic and dramatic precision. Hawke and Dano make the most of the opportunity, and their timing through it all is letter-perfect, as is their interpreting of the dialogue.” Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"Director James MacDonald finds within these two contrasting and entwined souls the brokenness of the familial bond that is the essence of 'True West'...The production does a grand symbolic balancing act between absurdest and realism that enhances the clashing of egos and envy residing in these two brothers’ hearts, never letting the detailed kitchen design overrule the fantastical enactment of the dynamic sibling rivalry...Dano and Hawke do the work proud." Full Review

The New York Times

"Sit back and get ready to enjoy the most perfectly distilled 50 minutes or so of classic Shepard you’re ever likely to see...The end of the first act left me breathless. The second act felt slightly off its rhythms...Mr. Dano was nailing the moves without making that final, essential leap into the void, and the tension sagged. I suspect he’ll get there as the play’s run continues. Mr. Hawke is already delivering a faultless performance, probably his best ever onstage." Full Review

Time Out New York

"If the charismatic Hawke all but wipes the floor with Dano in the play’s first half, Dano gets his turn to act out in Act Two. These are showcase roles, and the actors play them with gusto...But if some aspects of 'True West' seem too neatly schematic, Shepard’s dissection of authenticity and masculinity resounds in new ways in the current American political landscape." Full Review

Theater Life

“A blazing hot showcase for a mature, but still dangerous Hawke and a subtly intense Dano with insightful, soulful direction...Macdonald captures the wild humor as well as the galvanizing energy of Shepard’s battling bros. His production works...Both stars deliver top-caliber work. You would think Hawke would dominate the show...But Dano is equally fascinating...Macdonald’s final image is...A perfect representation of Shepard’s disturbing vision of America.” Full Review

New York Stage Review

"The play provides no shortage of insights today, when the perils of machismo gone unchecked are on display from sports bars to Silicon Valley to the White House...I can only judge Hawke’s and Dano’s fairly, by their own merits, which are considerable. In elder brother Lee, a drifter and thief, Hawke has found a vehicle for both his comedic facility (not always mined or guided adroitly, on stage or screen) and his capacity for menace." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"This is not a revelatory new interpretation, but it’s a serious and successful look at a seminal modern work...Hawke and Dano are excellent...But you can’t imagine them switching the roles, as their predecessors did. You don’t feel like you’re seeing something unprecedented. What you are seeing, though, is a top-notch take on Shepard’s provocative script." Full Review

Drama Queen NYC

“A ‘straight boy play’ that’s actually funny...Macdonald does a great job balancing the play’s symbolic and psychological components ‒ rightly placing a slightly stronger emphasis on the the symbolic, comic aspect of the show...The play is not what you would call ‘fully woke’ ‒ but is certainly more evolved and self-aware than most straight male centered drama of the time. Recommended.” Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

“’True West’ remains a pulse-pounding exploration of tropes of American manhood, sibling rivalry, and the vaunted frontier that so occupied Shepard...Hawke and Dano convince as brothers...Both give expertly realized performances, although Hawke seems more comfortable...‘True West’ still has a lot to say about how individual and collective identities are formed. Shepard’s battling brothers may end up ransacking your house, but you can’t help wanting to invite them in." Full Review


"Secondly, the show benefits immeasurably by the superb work of its stars, especially Ethan Hawke, who in a truly mesmerizing, muscular turn, practically disappears into the role of older sibling Lee, a drifter drifter-cum-thief who unexpectedly pops into his mother's suburban California house (intricately designed by Mimi Lien, who frames it in a lighted box - perhaps echoing the idea of a movie screen)." Full Review

Daily Beast

"Mimi Lien’s precisely evocative set for this Roundabout Theatre Company production is as impressive as the acting...Austin is the biggest, most watchable surprise; Dano's paralytic letting-go is wonderful—a cavalcade of clowning, pratfalls, and jerky limbs—because what’s more funny than a fuddy-duddy going loco...The tragic love story in 'True West' is between brothers, but Shepard and his actors gruffly disavow what that might mean, and the play is all the more puzzling because of it." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Arguably Shepard’s funniest play. But don’t worry. There’s no shortage of the playwright’s penchant for ominous menace hovering over the...production...Hawke is on fire...His Lee is the darkest incarnation of the alpha male...As intimidating as Lee is, he’s equally funny...Dano makes Austin more of a milquetoast than he needs to...The second act is not as riveting as the first...It’s a little forced at times...Macdonald’s precise direction makes a taut drama even tighter." Full Review

The Stage (UK)

"Shepard’s play is symbolic and strange, if also a bit thin. Macdonald’s production bolsters it with gnawing electric guitar interstitial music...Macdonald extracts humour from the play but the outlandish disintegration in the second act does not quite come off, in part due to Dano’s reticence. His introspective approach works well in the first act, but he is less convincing when he lets loose. Hawke, however, is superb." Full Review


"Whether Shepard’s chief insight holds up is an open question even this earnest production doesn’t quite answer...Still, there’s no denying the appeal 'True West' still commands, perhaps especially for actors...Dano is entirely credible here...Hawke, of course, lives for this type of juicy role, playing dirty in more ways than one...So maybe his transformation from fearsome to beggarly is a tad brisk, but just try to look away." Full Review

Entertainment Weekly

"Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano, who pair together marvelously...Hawke and Dano do an excellent job going round for round, playing into the comedic moments of their fighting, and director James Macdonald gives the play a cinematic touch by using music and a picture-frame effect of bright lights around the stage between scenes. But while watching them go at it is entertaining, what the play is fighting for isn’t as clear." Full Review


"Having seen it at least four times before, I can say with certainty that Sam Shepard's 'True West' (1980) is a firm and solid play: a play to be pondered both while you're watching it and afterwards, when you consider what you saw. But the current Roundabout production leaves more than just a little to be desired: it's slow and plodding and contemplative, instead of explosive, which is what it's designed to be." Full Review


"The play is boldly directed by British director James Macdonald with new twists and more humor inserted to make it more like theater of the absurd. The two aces here are Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano, both giving sterling performances and their best stage performances to date...In all honesty, Sam Shepard isn’t the easiest playwright to sit through and understand the fatalistic psychological undercurrents throughout his plays. For audiences he is an acquired taste." Full Review


“Theater looks forward and backward simultaneously...What are we to do with our history and, particularly, with its misogyny? This production, while always entertaining, doesn’t quite solve this problem; director James Macdonald’s pacing is at times too languid...But the complexity of Hawke’s and Dano’s performances in 'True West' suggests that we need not abandon our history entirely.” Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"The expansive American Airlines Theatre isn't intimate enough to provide the necessary air of claustrophobia; the slack pacing of Act I allows boredom to settle in; and Hawke, as good as he is, is a bit too studied in his affect. He certainly tries hard, but you never get the sense of true danger that his character is supposed to emit...The play practically becomes an all-out farce, which is perhaps not what Shepard intended but is highly entertaining nonetheless." Full Review

The Clyde Fitch Report

“Watching Hawke’s Lee and Dano’s Austin take on so many opposite qualities makes for alluring theater...Hawke brings out Shepard’s calculating heavy with every off-handed yet measured syllable. Dano gives the impression of a man evaporating...Shepard’s gimmick, and the challenge it affords two actors, is enough to delight and disturb any spectators who haven’t seen the play. For others, ‘True West’ rings less true than it once did.” Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"Hawke does not disappoint; his performance is high-energy and, at times, over the top. Dano, in the less showy role, comes into his own during the second act...After a slow, mostly uneventful first act, mayhem ensues after intermission. There are some very funny scenes, many of which involve skillfully executed physical humor...James Macdonald’s direction is fine in many details but does not overcome the slow pace of the first act." Full Review

Great acting, Masterful, Great writing

See it if The acting of Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano is exceptional. The physical comedy is brilliant. I was exhausted by the end, but in a good way.

Don't see it if You are looking for light comedy. While it is funny in parts, it’s intense.

Sibling rivalry.

See it if you like small cast, single-set, confrontational dramas.

Don't see it if raised voices and heightened drama--even with a dollop of comedy thrown in--generally turn you off.

Also Austin is a struggling Hollywood screenwriter hard at work on his next... Read more Read less

Clever, Masterful, Intelligent, Riveting, Absorbing

See it if You like dark and twisted witty banter and deconstruction concepts of brotherhood, creativity, integrity, talent and perseverance.

Don't see it if You like surreal definitions of achievement and purpose.

Also Amazing and wonderful play written by the late Sam Shephard and acted ... Read more Read less

Great acting, Funny, Intelligent

See it if You want to see Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano deliver powerful performances, and enjoy humor on the darker side.

Don't see it if You want an upbeat story that coddles you all the way to a happy ending.

Entertaining, Funny, Great acting, Riveting

See it if you like to see acting that you can't see and like a good twist in a story.

Don't see it if you have to have lots of actors cluttering up the stage.

Funny, Absorbing, Masterful, Clever, Entertaining

See it if You want to see two actors embody their characters and dive into the psychology of talent and ambition

Don't see it if You don't like plays. You like showy staging and action.

Also Paul Dano is excellent. See it just for his performance.

Funny, Great acting, Hilarious, Entertaining, Clever

See it if You like realism with a dab of absurdism, and really amazing acting, Ethan Hawke turns himself inside out during this show.

Don't see it if You don't like shows that are emblematic of America now the intellectuals pitting themselves against the anti-intellectuals of Trump's US.

Edgy, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging, Masterful

See it if You want to witness how chemistry between Ethan Hawks and Paul Dano, raise the suspense & humor in this Sam Shepard classic to a new level.

Don't see it if You avoid dramas about family conflict. Abhor violence and crime. Do not like edgy satire and surprise.

Also This production by Roundabout kept me mesmerized from beginning to end... Read more Read less

Riveting, Intelligent, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if you want to see two brilliant actors and are a Sam Shepard fan.

Don't see it if you do not like family conflict, dark story lines , violence and open-ended conclusions. This definitely not a light afternoon of theater.

Thought-provoking, Riveting, Intense, Epic, Great acting

See it if love great acting. Ethan Hawke is fantastic in this

Don't see it if not interested in a character study play.

Must see, Intense, Intelligent, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if You want to experience brilliant acting and see a play that stays with you. You shouldn't miss this.

Don't see it if You prefer a light story and pure entertainment. This is not that, though the conflict between these two brothers does darkly entertain.

Also This was a rare treat. I almost missed this, as it's near the end of i... Read more Read less

Slow burn, Quirky, Funny, Great writing, Visceral

See it if … Ethan Hawke is excellent. Paul Dano subdued and understated (which mostly pays off in the second act). Music/sound design also excellent.

Don't see it if Sam Shepard, estranged brothers, and sibling rivalry aren’t for you.

Also I'm thrilled to finally see a production of TRUE WEST! Roundabout's st... Read more Read less

Clever, Absorbing, Funny, Great acting, Great writing

See it if Loved it. Hawke and Dano are phenomenal as is the rest of cast. Great production of Shepard’s play. Go see this while you can. Great!

Don't see it if You want a fluffy comedy or feel good show.You don’t like Hawke or Dano.Dano needs to be miked: can’t hear him.Sibling themes are a trigger.

Quirky, Great staging, Edgy

See it if you enjoy abstract theater.

Don't see it if you expect resolution.

Absorbing, Great acting

See it if If you want to see fabulous acting, and if you are a Sam Shepherd fan.

Don't see it if Don't see if it you don't like lots of dialog.

Terrific acting, Great writing, A classic

See it if you want to witness one of the greatest American plays in a top-notch production with the outstanding performance of Ethan Hawk as Lee.

Don't see it if you're not into Shepard's poetic take on American myth and reality, what we'd like to be and what we've become,& masculinity and domesticity

Great writing, Great acting, Absorbing, Riveting, Entertaining

See it if You want to see two exciting actors take on these classic roles and electrify the stage. Hard to take your eyes off them.

Don't see it if You don’t like mental gymnastics. Lots of dialogue and lots of personalities on display on that stage.

Absorbing, Edgy, Great writing, Riveting, Great acting

See it if You enjoy great acting, especially with Ethan Hawke. Writing was intense, but with a touch of humor.

Don't see it if You don't like noisy, violent productions

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Great writing, Must see

See it if The acting, Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano, is superb. The personalities of the two brothers at first so distinct and then...

Don't see it if If you don’t like either actor since they are the only on a on stage for much of the performance

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing

See it if It's a wonderful drama. It goes very quickly and you're totally absorbed.

Don't see it if Don't like the playwright and don't care for very dark plays.

Funny, Entertaining, Great acting, Great writing, Quirky

See it if you like Sam Shepard's quirky and spellbinding style of writing or are a fan of Ethan Hawke or Paul Dano, or if just like toast.

Don't see it if you dislike compelling although quirky family dramas that erupt into violence. You dislike comedy or have an aversion to drinking scenarios.

Also Chemistry. If True West could be described in one word, it would be ch... Read more Read less

Edgy, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if You want absorbing, strong performances by the cast. I could not take my eyes off of Ethan Hawke ... fast paced interesting play

Don't see it if You are bothered by violence and disturbing subject matter

Absorbing, Great acting, Ambitious

See it if a conflict between two disparate brothers appeals to you

Don't see it if you expect a play to be crystal clear

Entertaining, Great acting, Funny, Absorbing, Exciting

See it if you love Paul Dano and Ethan Hawke and are a fan of Sam Shepard's work and absurd worlds

Don't see it if you don't like (predominately) two-hander plays, out of control and outlandish characters, don't like Hawke because it is basically his show

Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent

See it if You like Sam Shepard’s work, or dark humor in general, and you won’t be haunted by open ending (lol)

Don't see it if You like straight-forward play with clear plot.

Also Great acting by the cast. Ethan Hawk puts in a lot of physical work (t... Read more Read less

Cast & Creatives (11)