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True West
by Sam Shepard

“I wanted to write a play about double nature, one that wouldn’t be symbolic or metaphorical or any of that stuff. I just wanted to give a taste of what it feels like to be two-sided. It’s a real thing, double nature. I think we’re split in a much more devastating way than psychology can ever reveal. It’s not so cute. Not some little thing we can get over. It’s something we’ve got to live with.” --Sam Shepard


Study Guides



The Play

As part of PBS’s American Playhouse, John Malkovich and Gary Sinese star in a compelling version. On YouTube, the entire play is available or broken into 10 parts.

Complete text.


Time CoverProduction Reviews

New Republic -- “It is a dazzling piece of writing—terse, suggestive, mystifying, intense.” Version casts Tommy Lee Jones and Peter Boyle in a flawed production. 31 January 1981.

Variety -- “It’s simply scaldingly funny, and formly grounded in a recognizable time and place, not to mention the primal territory of family dysfunction.” 10 March 2000.

Observer -- “Sam Shepard’s screamfest is funny enough in its own weirdly schizophrenic right, with its dark, absurdist undertow of emotional murders and the death of the American family.” 27 March 2000.

Nation -- “When the scenery is actually torn down in True West, the American home, brotherhood and the idea of masculinity are eviscerated.” Version casts Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly in both roles, with the two actors alternating the parts every three performances. 24 April 2000.

National Review -- “In the end, one feels the brothers (and their different Wests) are equally inauthentic and tainted by their association with Tinseltown’s schlocky superficiality.” Same performers, different slant.19 June 2000.

Oregon Live -- “In this confrontation, Shepard captures more than the unresolvable tension between the brothers, a tension that lies at the heart of the so-called true West; he conveys a sense of a conflict that lies at the heart of the nation as well as within the soul of each and every one of us.” Insightful review of a local production. 9 November 2014


toastersVideo Clips


Hoffman & Reilly Charley Rose Interview


Critical Article

“Nowhere Man and the Twentieth-Century Cowboy: Images of Identity and American History in Sam Shepard’s True West -- yes! all 19 pages!

Poster Art

This frequently-performed play has inspired powerful posters. Write an art analysis of your favorite, focusing on what the poster reveals about the play itself. (Click each poster to see a larger image).
Remember: What is the effect of the poster and how is that effect produced?

Atlas Theater
Cottesloe Theater
Hot City
Hot City Theater
Main Street Theater
New Village
New Village Art
Palm Canyon
Palm Canyon Theater

RIT Players

Sidney & Bernie Davis Theater

Sporadic Evolution

Springfield Stageworks

Studio 44
Theater in the Park
Theatre Exile
Tricycle Theter






If you download or print anything from this site, please consider making at least a $10.00 donation through PayPal.
I can maintain and expand this website only with your help.

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Updated 22 May2021.

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