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BWW Flashback: Beyond TRUE WEST- The Great Plays of Sam Shepard!

On Thursday night, Roundabout Theatre Company brought Sam Shepard's Pulitzer Prize-nominated play, True West, back to Broadway, continuing the legacy of the late playwright's work.

Shepard is the author of forty-four plays as well as several books of short stories, essays, and memoirs. Shepard received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his play Buried Child. Shepard's plays are chiefly known for their bleak, poetic, often surrealist elements, black humor and rootless characters living on the outskirts of American society. His style has evolved over the years, from the absurdism of his early Off-Off-Broadway work to the realism of Buried Child and Curse of the Starving Class (both 1978).

Below, we're reviewing just a handful of Sheprad's greatest works!

The Tooth of Crime:

The play made its premiere in London's Open Space Theatre on July 17, 1972. It tells the story of aging rocksinger Hoss, doing battle with rival Crow. The Tooth of Crime had its American premiere at the McCarter Theater in November 1972, starring Frank Langella. The original script was revived in 2006 for a production at LaMama E.T.C. According to the New York Times, this production "[made] a compelling case for 'The Tooth of Crime' as one of Mr. Shepard's best plays ... and perhaps the best American drama on the cancerous nature of fame."

Curse of the Starving Class:

Curse of the Starving Class is considered the first of Shepard's series on family tragedies. The play was commissioned by Joseph Papp and premiered in London in 1977 (starring Ebbe Roe Smith and Olympia Dukakis) before playing at Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival in 1978. It won the 1976-77 Obie Award for Best New American Play. A 1994 film adaptation stars James Woods, Kathy Bates and Randy Quaid.

Buried Child:

Buried Child won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and launched Shepard to national fame as a playwright. The play depicts the fragmentation of the American nuclear family in a context of disappointment and disillusionment with American mythology and the American Dream, the 1970s rural economic slowdown, and the breakdown of traditional family structures and values. In 1979, Shepard also won the Obie Award for Playwriting. The Broadway revival in 1996 received five Tony nominations, including Best Play.

True West:

True West was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1983. 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. A television movie of the stage play, featuring Sinise and Malkovich, aired on the PBS series "American Playhouse" in January 1984.

Fool for Love:

Fool for Love focuses on May and Eddie, former lovers who have met again in a motel in the desert. The play premiered in 1983 at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, where Shepard was the playwright-in-residence. The play was a finalist for the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. A 2015 Broadway revival starred Sam Rockwell and Nina Arianda.


Simpatico opened at the Joseph Papp Public Theater in New York on November 14, 1994. In 1999, it was adapted for the screen in the film Simpatico starring Nick Nolte, Jeff Bridges, Sharon Stone, Catherine Keener, and Albert Finney. In the Fall of 2017, following the death of Sam Shepard that July, Simpatico was presented at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey by A Red Orchid Theatre of Chicago, and directed by Dado. The cast was Michael Shannon, Guy Van Swearingen, Mierka Girten, John Judd, Kristen E. Ellis and Jennifer Engstrom.

Shepard's other plays include: Cowboys, The Rock Garden, Chicago, Icarus's Mother, 4-H Club, Red Cross, La Turista, Cowboys #2, Forensic & the Navigators, The Unseen Hand, Oh! Calcutta! (contributed sketches), The Holy Ghostly, Operation Sidewinder, Mad Dog Blues, Back Bog Beast Bait, Cowboy Mouth, Geography of a Horse Dreamer, Action, Angel City, Suicide in B Flat, Inacoma, Tongues, Savage/Love, A Lie of the Mind, A Short Life of Trouble, Baby Boom, States of Shock, Eyes for Consuela, The Late Henry Moss, The God of Hell, Kicking a Dead Horse, Ages of the Moon, Heartless and A Particle of Dread.

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