Rep Stage wraps with wild 'West'

Rep Stage marks the close of its milestone 25th season not with fireworks, but with something more explosive: Sam Shepard's play “True West.”

“True West” is a hair-raising onstage collision between a feral outlaw and a meek screenwriter who happen to be brothers. It all unfolds -- or perhaps erupts is a better word -- in their mother’s Los Angeles kitchen.

It has bad language, fighting and a lot of toast.

The production, which runs April 26 to May 13, will also be “quite a lovely reunion to close out the season,” said Joseph Ritsch, Rep Stage’s producing artistic director.

That's because the play is directed by Vincent Lancisi, who is the artistic director of the Everyman Theatre in Baltimore. His association with Rep Stage started at the beginning in 1993 when he directed its first production, “Marvin’s Room.”

Rounding out the reunion is Valerie Lash, who founded Rep Stage and is currently dean of arts and humanities at Howard Community College. She performs in “True West” in the role of Mom.

“We’ve done a number of plays with Vinnie,” Lash said.

She recalled that she was the only full-time theater faculty member at HCC when Rep Stage was launched. She has been on the HCC faculty for 36 years.

She said this is her first time on stage in two years.

“Being dean, I am more involved with the academic side,” she said. “But occasionally I like to perform.”

The intensity of the play has required four weeks of rehearsals, she said.

“It’s a lot of work. Every minute on stage takes about an hour of rehearsal. There is intense physicality in this play,” Lash said.

Lancisi recalled that Lash performed in that first play he directed in 1993.

“I am very indebted to Valerie and Rep Stage,” he said. “It all started there in Columbia.”

Lancisi said of the two brothers in the play that “one is wild west and the other Ivy League.

“The play shows deep emotions of joy and envy and competition and regret. These two brothers go through the ringer. It's a tour de force.”

“True West” has a cast of four. Dominating the performances are Tim Getman as the menacing Lee and Daniel Corey as the bookish Austin. Lash is Mom and James Whalen is Saul, a clueless Hollywood producer.

Ritsch made the selection of “True West” to close the season.

“It’s one of the most popular and well-known plays in Shepard’s canon,” he said. “When I was programming the anniversary season it was important to stress the history of Rep Stage and what it is known for, and that's American classics.”

On Broadway, “True West” has paired Gary Sinise and John Malkovich in one production and John C. Reilly and Philip Seymour Hoffman in another. In the latter, the two actors would periodically swap roles.

Because of language and violence, audience members for the Rep Stage production must be at least 16. All performances are Thursday through Sunday. The top general admission price is $40 and there are discounts for seniors, military, students (with ID) and groups of 10 or more. All Thursday performances are $10.

Rep Stage’s performances are at the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center’s Studio Theatre on the HCC campus, 10901 Little Patuxent Pkwy, Columbia.

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