True West is a play by American playwright Sam Shepard. Some critics consider it the third of a Family Trilogy which includes Curse of the Starving Class (1976) and Buried Child (1979). Others consider it part of a quintet which includes Fool for Love (1983) and A Lie of the Mind (1985). True West was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1983.
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True West was first performed at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, where Shepard was the resident playwright. It had its world premiere there on July 10, 1980. It was originally directed by Robert Woodruff and starred Peter Coyote as Austin, Jim Haynie as Lee, Tom Dahlgren as Saul Kimmer, and Carol McElheney as Mom. The production moved from the Magic Theatre to the Marines Memorial Theatre in San Francisco in 1981. Ebbe Roe Smith replaced Peter Coyote as Austin. This production premiered Off-Broadway at Joseph Papp’s The Public Theater, opening on December 23, 1980 and closing on January 11, 1981. The play starred Tommy Lee Jones and Peter Boyle and was directed by Robert Woodruff.
It was produced by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 1982, with then fairly unknown actors Gary Sinise (who also directed the production) and John Malkovich playing the leads. With Shepard’s approval, this production transferred to Off-Broadway, where it opened at Cherry Lane Theatre in October 1982. It closed on August 4, 1984 after 762 performances, and, later in the run, the leads were taken over by Bruce Lyons, James Belushi, Gary Cole, Tim Matheson, Erik Estrada, Dennis Quaid and Randy Quaid. A television movie of the stage play, featuring Sinise and Malkovich, aired on the PBS series “American Playhouse” in January 1984.
Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly played the leads on Broadway, where they switched parts every so often during the run. The play opened at the Circle in the Square Theatre on February 17, 2000 and closed on July 29, 2000 after 154 performances and 21 previews. The director Matthew Warchus requested that the Tony Administration Committee consider Hoffman and Reilly as a single unit for Tony nominations, but the Committee decided that they would be considered separately. Both Hoffman and Reilly each received a nomination. This revival was also nominated for Best Play and Best Director (Matthew Warchus).
Bruce Willis and Chad Smith starred in a filmed version of the play, which was aired on Showtime in August 2002. The play was filmed in front of a live audience and directed by Gary Halvorson with Andrew Alburger and Danielle Kennedy in supporting roles. The play is to be produced on Broadway at the American Airlines Theatre in December 2018. It will be directed by James Macdonald and will star Ethan Hawke as Lee and Paul Dano as Austin.