For this Blog, I wanted to look at the play True West, and a theme I think was prevalent throughout the whole play, Whether or not the “truth” matters, does a stories real-life authenticity matter when trying to deliver a message?
Now when I speak about “truth” in this context I’m specifically referring to a stories real-world authenticity, ie, is it historically accurate, and if this even matters when the aim is to deliver a message?
Within the play we constantly see Austin trying to make an authentic western story. He strives to create a work that accurately represents the western life (And when I say western I don’t mean it in the modern sense, I mean it in the whole, Wild West, Jessie James and Billy the Kid style West) Austin is constantly reminding Lee and the Producer that his script is authentic to the way life was back in that time. But does that matter? Does a story need to be set in reality to portray a message? I don’t think so.
Now originally I was going to use the fact that the Producer chooses Lee’s idea over Austins as a kind of proof that the play gives this message too, but after thinking about it I think that Lee’s was chosen instead of Austins due to it being an idea that would be easier to make and probably a bigger crowd drawer in the mind of the producer.
But then why did I still chose to bring this topic up? Well, to be honest, I thought it was interesting. The concept that a story doesn’t or does need to be a certain way to convey a message.
I find it interesting because there are multiple ways a storyteller can convey their message and story and found it increasingly interesting that the producer of the Broadway version we saw was designed to be eerily realistic, despite being able to clearly see this “realistic” world in a box, almost like a toy box. And I think it’s through the play itself, from the staging, the sound effects, the lighting and the acting that the producer has been able to challenge the notion that something has to be seen as realistic to be able to send an impactful message. I want to look at each aspect mentioned and why I think they worked so well to give a sense of uncanniness that helps drive home this plays message on whether or not audiences even care about realism.\
Staging: The whole play is set within two, very detailed, and very realistic looking rooms. It’s as if someone took a room from an old house and plopped it inside a box and put it on a stage. Yet as the audience we can clearly see that this realist set is displayed all within a large box. Much like a toy doll house this set gives off an extremely uncanny vibe. I think this helps sell the notion that a story doesn’t need to be realistic to deliver a message.
Sound design: The sound design in this play was quite minimal, often only acting as a faint chirp of crickets, the howling of a coyote or the ringing of a telephone. Other than that the sound is nearly non-existent. Now while I understand this could also be because this is a play, and the audience needs to be able to hear the actors properly, I can’t help but feel that this choice was intentionally done to heighten the audience’s senses to the play and have them focus more on the uncanniness of the production.
Lighting: The lighting for the most part (as much as I can remember) was somewhat realistic, often only having lighting coming from places that a ceiling light would give light from. Again to me, this feels intentional to make the scene be as realistic as possible.
Acting: This is where I’m torn up, on one hand, you have Lee and Austins performances in which they felt slightly over the top in areas and in others genuinely sincere. Possibly playing on the fact that the audience knows this isn’t real and that to be more engaging they need to be more over the top? The mother too was quite strange, seemingly unphased by the destruction of her home and death of her plants, which in my mind, could symbolise the thought of “Who cares if it’s real as long as it was entertaining”.
Overall True West quite honestly, was my least favourite of the plays we watched, I give it Five “Extremely overpriced theatre drinks” out of Ten.