Classic play ‘True West’ to be performed at Players by the Sea

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Unsettling and intense, “True West” tackles identity, family and self-doubt and is the next production at Players by the Sea Theatre in Jacksonville Beach.

The play tells the story of sons of a desert-dwelling alcoholic and a suburban wanderer who have chosen extremely different lives. Their sibling rivalry violently erupts as they compete for the attention of a Hollywood producer, each trying to sell him a story for a new motion picture. 

 “Theatre should be a safe place to do the dangerous work of facing ourselves — what’s true and what’s real about ourselves — and this play, in particular, gives us an opportunity to do that,” said Director Brian Niece, who is making his Players by the Sea debut. 

 Niece’s process of working with the four-actor cast revolves around uncovering that truth and pushing further into the words of playwright Sam Shepard. 

All four actors are making their Players by the Sea debuts in “True West.” The cast features Josh Andrews, Tyler Hammond, Tyrone Thornhill and Brooklyn Murphy. According to Players by the Sea, each actor brings a diverse set of rich theatrical and film experience to the production. 

“With all material, what’s most important to me is the honesty of what you’re doing,” said Andrews, who is playing Austin. “I think as an audience member, that’s what is most important as well — is really believing what’s happening in front of you and the fact that it’s happening for the first time in front of you. For me, being honest through the choices of the character and the given circumstances of the play — that’s paramount to a spectacular performance, not just a mediocre one,”

According to the Jacksonville Beach theatre, the process of bringing this story to life exemplifies Players by the Sea’s mission of “enriching the community through excellence in theatre.” The theatre hopes to create and spark discussion and profound thought. 

“Let’s have a conversation,” Executive Director Suzanne Hudson-Smith said. “Though the play (was) written in the late 1970s, the conversation for generations has been about the mixed messages our culture sends to men, and the way these continue to shape male identity. Sam Shepard is a master in exposing relationships of rawness.”

“True West” runs on the theatre’s Studio Stage March 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29, 30 and 31. Stage management is by Kristin Livingston. 

Tickets are on sale now at playersbythesea.org or by calling the Box Office at (904) 249-0289. General admission is $28 and admission for seniors, students and military is $25. Thursday night performances are special Student Nights, at which students can receive half price tickets with a valid student ID. 

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