True West (Broadway)
True West (Broadway)
76

True West (Broadway) NYC Reviews and Tickets

76%
(282 Reviews)
Positive
78%
Mixed
18%
Negative
4%
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.

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Member Reviews (282)

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90
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.

55
Banal, Fluffy, Slow, Overrated, Dated

See it if You want to see Hawke or dano. Very dated . If you like Sam Shepard.

Don't see it if Lighting was awful sat in row l and lights hit actors so you could not see their faces..terrible direction..

Critic Reviews (46)

The New York Times
January 24th, 2019

"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."
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Time Out New York
January 24th, 2019

"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."
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New York Magazine / Vulture
January 24th, 2019

"Hawke is lighting a fire (literally and figuratively) at the center of the play and clearly having a ball doing it. But on the other side of things, through some imperfect alchemy of actor, director, and character, Dano’s Austin can’t take the heat...Mayhem is aesthetically approximated, but it never really kicks us in the guts...Up inside its jewel box, so neatly delineated and so separate from us, the mess this production makes is largely artificial, well designed but not dangerous."
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The Hollywood Reporter
January 24th, 2019

"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."
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Entertainment Weekly
January 24th, 2019

"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."
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Variety
January 24th, 2019

"This funny, violent play is one of Sam Shepard’s best works, a fierce summation of some of his undying themes...If there’s one thing a production of 'True West' must have, it’s that haunting sense of the two brothers being one person at war with himself. That’s exactly what director James Macdonald’s new Broadway production doesn’t have...More critically, there’s no real sense of danger when the brothers finally trash the kitchen and go for each other’s throats."
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The Wall Street Journal
January 24th, 2019

"While 'True West' fails to add up to a convincing dramatic whole, it still works as a vehicle for two first-class actors, and the stars of this revival qualify...Shepard aimed for high significance but settled in the second act for noisy obviousness. If you’re content to watch two fine actors make the most of a play that gives them plenty of opportunities to show off, you’ll go home happy."
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The Observer
January 25th, 2019

"The results are disappointingly wan...Macdonald’s intelligent, detailed work reveals the play’s symmetries...In other words, this is the most well-behaved 'True West' I’ve ever seen. That’s not necessarily a good thing...There needs to be a subtle but definite psychic flip, where each brother starts to take on the other’s qualities. And while Hawke can modulate greaseball macho swagger into helpless, boyish terror, Dano can’t seem to access Austin’s inner killer."
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Deadline
January 24th, 2019

"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."
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The Washington Post
January 24th, 2019

"Hawke proves to be the roaring featured attraction in Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of Shepard’s 1983 absurdist comedy, directed with a sometimes uncertain grasp on the material by James Macdonald...Dano pulls up somewhere short of convincing as a viable match for Lee. Even so, this 'True West' has its tickling rewards, particularly in the early going, when the menace in the play is at its most nerve-racking."
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New York Post
January 25th, 2019

"When Ethan Hawke relieving himself onto a houseplant becomes one of the most noteworthy moments in a Broadway show, it’s safe to say it’s been a soggy night of theater...This new version could use a high-voltage power infusion. As is, the staging taps Shepard’s sly humor but lacks energy and fizzles as a battle royale...Hawke conjures the right kind of feral menace...Dano, blank-faced and bland, offers next to nothing to play or punch against."
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AM New York
January 24th, 2019

"Stars a top form Ethan Hawke and an utterly miscast Paul Dano...Here, one gets no sense that Hawke and Dano are related by blood. Dano gives a stiff and superficial performance in which he repeatedly crosses his arms to convey discomfort. Dano is also unable to credibly execute the role reversal, which all but ruins the second half of the play, robbing it of its excitement and brutality. On the other hand, Hawke is an ideal Lee."
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Theatermania
January 24th, 2019

"Unfortunately, the performances in this 'True West' have a false ring about them: While we expect Austin and Lee to be polar opposites, there's little fraternal gravity pulling Hawke and Dano back to a shared past...Perhaps in an effort to affect the creeping surrealism of Shepard's text, Macdonald has directed his two main actors to reach for bigger, ever more ludicrous performances in the second act...Considering the life-and-death stakes, 'True West' shouldn't feel as dull as it does."
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Lighting & Sound America
February 4th, 2019

"All the elements of a clanging confrontation are there, but somebody has held down the mute button, resulting in a black comedy strangely lacking in tension; even its most outrageous moments feel less explosive than dutifully carried out...The first act of 'True West' should be electric with tension, but here the current never sizzles...Macdonald's production has some solid touches...For all the effort expended, this is a mild, mild 'West.'"
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Talkin' Broadway
January 24th, 2019

"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."
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New York Stage Review
January 24th, 2019

"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."
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New York Stage Review
January 24th, 2019

"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."
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Broadway News
January 24th, 2019

"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."
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TheaterScene.net
February 6th, 2019

"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."
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Theater Pizzazz
January 24th, 2019

"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."
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CurtainUp
February 1st, 2019

“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 the...best 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.”
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Front Row Center
January 31st, 2019

“Dano is not up to the task...Hawke is more capable and takes command of everything pretty much from the get go. The imbalance is astonishing...People will go to see Hawke, and there are moments when he does not disappoint. He is an actor who loves adventure, and that commitment is infectious...He will try anything – and that puts us on notice...As for there rest – it was all Sturm und Drang...In a word, boring.”
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Front Mezz Junkies
February 4th, 2019

"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."
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Exeunt Magazine
January 31st, 2019

“’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."
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Broadway Blog
January 31st, 2019

"The argumentative stupidity and aggression in the brothers' conflicts grow tiresome, even repetitious, over two hours and 15 minutes. Dano and Hawke work hard and provide lots of expressive variety but, while technically adept, their choices fail to create the authenticity the characters themselves are seeking. They also are too rarely genuinely funny or reflective of the 'double natures' Shepard invested in these roles."
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C
January 24th, 2019

"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)."
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DC Theatre Scene
January 31st, 2019

"Whatever else 'True West' is — yes, a theatrically explosive exploration of a fraught sibling relationship, but also a satire of Hollywood, and a black comedy — it is, above all, an opportunity for two showy performances...As talented as both actors are, it’s hard for me to see Hawke and Dano as brothers...Hawke and Dano are both wonderful actors...No, I didn’t find this production of 'True West' especially electrifying, or deconstructing. But sometimes, a little entertainment is enough."
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The Guardian (UK)
January 24th, 2019

"The Roundabout has brought together Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano, who somehow produce all the great upheaval of a 10-gallon hat left out in a drizzle...Macdonald, a superb director of new work and a shakier hand at revivals, hasn’t found the rhythms of the show...Macdonald and the actors, like the play’s characters, seem so eager to get at something elemental, so the first act feels rushed and the second baggy. 'True West' isn’t won like this."
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The Clyde Fitch Report
January 24th, 2019

“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.”
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Gotham Playgoer
January 24th, 2019

"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."
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The Wrap
January 26th, 2019

"How can Ethan Hawke deliver such a grandiose, inspired performance as the bad brother Lee across the stage from a wan, overly ironic performance by Paul Dano that flirts with embodying, but never grabs hold of, the good brother Austin? James Macdonald directs this very unbalanced spectacle...Instead of confronting Lee, Dano’s Austin literally flounces...He’s playing camp while Hawke’s playing real."
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Wolf Entertainment Guide
January 31st, 2019

“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.”
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T
February 4th, 2019

“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.”
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Stage Left
February 5th, 2019

"The play is meant to be a deconstruction of the construct of identity...That’s all there in the text, but is lost in this colorful, cinematic, and slow-paced production under the helm of British director James Macdonald. The largest problem is the mismatch casting of Mr. Hawke and Mr. Dano, who never convincingly read as brothers with a shared past or shared DNA...Beyond this casting folly, the play itself chafes with the mores of 2019."
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Towleroad
January 25th, 2019

"Star-power short-circuits in this curiously light-hearted production...What’s ultimately meant to seem a deep, dark dive into the conflicts of the male psyche feels rather like a superficial scratch at the surface...It’s a long road for the play to travel, one Shepard has laid with enough wit to distract us...But the reversal feels more like a natural extension of the production’s sitcom aesthetic and pacing rather than a well-earned dramatic climax in a psychological drama."
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Daily Beast
January 24th, 2019

"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."
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O
January 31st, 2019

“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."
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NewNowNext.com
January 28th, 2019

“I was disheartened with Act One, feeling that Ethan Hawke wasn’t fully embodying the randy mess that is Lee, and Paul Dano—another actor I admire—was stretching with the button-down role of Austin and coming off shockingly bland, way more so than required. The sparks weren’t exactly flying, but when the second half veers into surreal theatrics, the direction kicks in and the two actors come alive...At this point, the production finds its tone and settles into some beautiful disarray.”
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Newsday
January 24th, 2019

"Director James Macdonald gives this latest revival a painfully slow build, making the first act somewhat tedious. And the cinematic style, the stage ringed in white lights that flash unnecessarily bright during scene changes, is more of a distraction than anything else...Dano and Hawke are at their best in the final scenes, compelling and convincing as they come unglued in a drunken battle of wills."
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NJ.com
January 25th, 2019

“Hawke gives a stage performance that’s every bit as astonishing...You can’t take your eyes off him...But this ‘True West’, unevenly directed by Macdonald...look antiquated and minor...Macdonald never really makes clear why we should care about the bruised egos and petty obsessions of these characters. The final stretch of the show seems particularly bungled...The lead actors nonetheless keep you watching. Dano starts off too timidly, but grows into the role."
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T
January 24th, 2019

“After seeing this production...I cannot grasp what made this play so highly regarded...Hawke is a dynamic Lee, full of bravado and testosterone. The performance is big, accomplished and entertaining...Dano’s Austin is a milquetoast...The brother connection is not believable...The personality bypass required to carry this story arc...doesn’t work...This balance was too one-sided. Without the riveting fireworks, cracks in the play’s structure, notably its unrealistic timeline, seem irksome.”
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The Stage (UK)
January 24th, 2019

"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."
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W
January 26th, 2019

“Shepard's play is searing and savage — and very funny — and this production starts off with a moody tension...Both actors give convincing performances...But the tense and lyrical first act devolves into a more clownish second one. As things fall apart, Hawke and Dano start tearing up the scenery; the timing stutters, and what should be a menacing hothouse feels more like an out-of-control children's playroom...By the time this production ends, it feels more like a poke than a punch.”
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StageZine
January 31st, 2019

"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."
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Drama Queen NYC
February 2nd, 2019

“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.”
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S
January 25th, 2019

“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.”
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