By Sam Shepard
Directed by Kevin Becker
Starring Chaz Krivan and Corey Volence
Dark Side of Saturn Productions
Presented at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center</strong>
I suppose its s till brotherly love even if you try and strangle him with an electrical cord. Austin (Krivan) went to college and now he has a comfy gig as a failed screen writer. Lee (Volence) drifted; he survives on petty theft and dog fighting and holes up in the desert until the heat cools off. They meet in Mom’s (Barbara Blake) place; she’s off to Alaska and need Austin to water her plants. The boys are insanely jealous of each other, Austin wants to not worry about survival and Lee wants the appearance of success that will help him get women. They trade low blows and Lee takes an early lead, he’s a skilled manipulator and he promptly steals the one thing Austin has – a lead on a film deal via the ambiguous Saul (Jim Cundiff). “I always wondered what it would be like to be you” bemoans Austin, and after stopping in at the neighbors to borrow a television, Lee describes the place as “Paradise – it kills you a bit inside.” Lee might have a saleable story, but has no idea how to write a screen play, and Austin knows the mechanics of screenwriting but can’t stand the humiliation of working for Lee. They COULD work together, but that wouldn’t satisfy either so instead they drink and destroy each other along with an innocent typewriter and a few bromeliads.
This show start tough and gets tougher, Volence carries a dangerous edge in his face and Krivan is lost and knows he’s weak. Anyone could take him down from his agent to his mom, and he cowers before Lee like Moses in front of God. But he’s not totally powerless, he knows you can’t beat a script out of a typewriter with a sand wedge and that at least allows him to stand up for something, if not for himself. Cundiff is a cipher, he’s reserved and emotionless, and you never really believe he’s actually able to pull off any sort of a deal. And what about mom? She’s a late arrival and missed the party, all she can do is shame the boys and watch helplessly as they attempt to kill each other.
If we step back from the story, the relation between Lee and Austin sparkles. They clearly have history, they clearly know each other better than they admit and there can be no hatred as strong as between estranged brothers. Volence doesn’t look like he just got off a year living in the Mojave but he exudes a brutal toughness. Krivan is a wonderfully fluid drunk and a sad sack, you just want to push him down and steal his last ice cream cone. But when we get the climax he’s a potential killer, and with Volence’s face red as a beet it’s a real blood feud that could go one to add a new chapter to the Old Testament.
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