Picks and Pans Review: Sam Shepard: Stalking Himself

updated 07/06/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/06/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

PBS (Wed., July 8, 9 p.m. ET)

He played test pilot Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff and has appeared in about 20 other movies. "I'm an actor, I confess," says Sam Shepard. But this worthwhile Great Performances profile concentrates on his other, truer calling: playwright. The 54-year-old Shepard has written more than 40 works for the stage, including True West and Fool for Love, and even the relatively accessible ones are no snap to figure out. "That elusiveness, that mysterious-ness, is very powerful," director-actor Darrell Larson says of Shepard, and the statement applies to both his personality and his writing. Through an artful blend of interviews, readings by Shepard, scenes from his plays and evocative images of the America that shaped him, Stalking Himself helps us decode the messages of this private man, whose philosophy of theater is: "You send this telegram, and then you get out." The hour-long program is followed by a 1984 American Playhouse production of True West, starring John Malkovich and Gary Sinise as siblings locked in a destructive rivalry.

Bottom Line: Intriguing portrait of a theater artist

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