Review: True West shows moxy at the Roxy

Blue Bridge Theatre company shows it's got what it takes

The Roxy Theatre ain’t what she used to be. And that’s good news.

Gone are the sticky floors, worn seats and slightly funky odour that overpowered the scent of hot buttered popcorn. In their place is new Blue Bridge at the Roxy Theatre, which celebrated its official opening Nov. 21 with Sam Shepard’s True West.

The five year old theatre company may be young, but with its purchase of The Roxy earlier this year, not only did it rejuvenate the 300-seat movie theatre in Quadra Village, it solidified its roots in Greater Victoria.

To use an old-timey word, the brains behind the Blue Bridge have moxy and they showed it off last night – big time. Kudos to big dreamers and those callused hands that scrubbed, hammered, plastered, painted and hung rigging to transform The Roxy into a bonafide theatre.

 

Shepard’s tale of two brothers explores sibling rivalry at its most heated. The brothers Austin, played by Atomic Vaudeville co-founder and son of Blue Bridge’s artistic director Brian Richmond (mom is actress Janet Wright) Jacob Richmond; and Lee, UVic and National Theatre School of Canada grad and Toronto-based actor Paul Fauteux, are staying at their mother’s house while she’s away.

Younger brother, mildly nerdy family man Austin, is house-sitting for his mother while writing a screen play. His older brother Lee, a two-bit criminal and drifter, appears and begins a distracting diatribe.

At first Austin defers to his brother, gently brushing off his digs and insults, as Lee becomes more cutting in his remarks, Austin suggests he leave. Lee then threatens to break into the neighbours’ homes, causing Austin to back down.

The scenes shift easily in the production thanks to 19-year-old guitarist Kiaran McMillan, a Vic High grad who deferred acceptance to Berklee College of Music in Boston  last spring to tour in Atomic Vaudeville’s Ride the Cyclone. The one distraction being lights reflecting off the guitar during the show.

With each scene change, the tension between our rivals grows, the ebb and flow just enough to keep the audience tuned in without turning them off. A few were too eager to laugh, leaving me wondering if they were expecting a all-out comedy instead of a volatile drama or simply had too much wine with dinner.

Fauteux’s portrayal of Lee is reminiscent of a young Robert Blake’s performance in In Cold Blood. His bravado is contained, his violent outbursts authentic and during his scenes with producer Saul Kimmel, played by Blue Bridge cornerstone Brian Linds, he expertly showed how the beer-swilling Lee makes his way through life.

I’ll confess, I’m a Jacob Richmond fan. He is able to play straight-laced and buttoned up as easily as the buffoon, but in the first half of West, I was less than enthused. Redemption came when Austin succumbed to the bottle and wallowed in glorious self-loathing after Lee garnered a screenwriting deal with Kimmel during a golf game offstage.

In his quick transformation from golden boy to drunken has-been, Richmond allows Austin to reflect Lee’s character back at him with a clever dose of humour in the form of toast.

With no insult meant to actress Naomi Simpson, the final scene when the disassociated mom returns is inconsequential to this production. Richmond and Fauteux’s performances alone bring the audience to rapt attention during shouting arguments and the poignant retelling of how their father lost his teeth.

The Roxy will continue to show films on a regular basis, but the screen is up and the stage is the thing as True West runs through Dec. 1.

 

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