The Wall Street Journal's Terry Teachout and The New York Times' Ben Brantley trained their big guns Friday on the Broadway revival of Sam Shephard's "True West."
Like David Rabe's "Hurlyburly,"" Shepard's kichen-table rumble between two brothers is a career showpiece for macho actors.
Over the years, Tommy Lee Jones, Peter Coyote, Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Gary Sinese and Chad Smith have flung their acting chops at the voluble play.
John C. Reilly and Philip Seymour Hoffman starred in the original Broadway production, switching roles between the emerging playwright Austin and his destructive alcoholic brother, Lee.
Now, Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano notch the play on their career highlight board. In a production photo, a leering Hawke as Lee looks as if he's swallowed a large swath of scenery. Dano appears more subdued.
As usual in the Brantley-Teachout faceoffs, Brantley was more enthusiastic about the Roundabout Theater Co. production, directed by James MacDonald at the American Airlines Theater.
Teachout finds the play seriously flawed after the first act, but recommends the production to those who want to immerse themselves in Hawke and Dano's fevered acting.
While Teachout faults Hawke for over-emoting and taking too much pleasure in the role, he praises Dano for what he views as a more subtle performance.
In contrast with Teachout, Brantley sees both performances as electric and the play as a classic worthy of Eugene O'Neill. While Brantley lauds Hawke's portrayal of the malevolent Lee, he sees Dano as not quite achieving full emotional intensity.
With Hawke and Dano starring, the production likely will be a hit, if not a runaway smash like Aaron Sorkin's "To Kill a Mockingbird." It's shaping up as a good year on Broadway for drama.