B+

 

Seeing Neil LaBute shows has become a pseudo-regular thing for me, not so much because I know that I’ll enjoy it, but because I know I’ll have a strong opinion about it.

 

Hoo-rah!

  • An all-and-all good time at the theater.
  • Strong character and context reveals that reframe the story. Without spoiling anything, think ‘Superbad’ meets ‘Cruel Intentions’
  • A short play!
  • With only two characters and one set, my attention was held.
  • Scintillating stage debut by Amanda Seyfried who manages to subvert the ‘girlfriend prize’ archetype with some strongly-written monologues that she nails.
  • Refreshingly upbeat ending. ‘Making a fuss’ has never been quite that fun and romantic without feeling overly-cheesy.

Blech…

  • Most generic title ever. Every time I try to tell someone the name of the play I have to look it up again. It’s up there with ‘The Shape of Things’ and ‘This is How It Goes’ for totally bland, could-be-about-anything titles.
  • 80 minutes was about 50 minutes too long. If there is an 80-minute version of this story, it’s one that doesn’t keep hitting the same beats over and over and actually delves more into the deeper implications of this relationship. But really, it should be a one act.
  • The lighting design was confusing– the window curtains were lit to look just like daylight was hitting them, but then when they’re pulled back we see nothing but blackness. I thought ‘fine, it’s before sunrise’, but then I would have expected a rising sun or blue-ing sky as the play progressed, but no, nothing. Also the apartment hall light was off. I’ve never been in an apartment where the hall light was ever off.
  • Not a huge fan of the character Thomas Sadoski was playing, or the performance. I think we were supposed to find him endearingly indecisive, but he just came off as obnoxious and obstinate. Which now that I think about it, seems to be a common trend for male leads in LaBute plays (I’m looking at you, male lead in ‘Fat Pig’). Also, here’s the characterization of him: a muscle-ripped Star Wars nerd who can’t articulate any of his thoughts but is a super man slut dating multiple women at a time. What? Does that occur in nature?
  • While I did enjoy the reveals, I wish more seeds had been planted for them earlier in the show. It should always be theoretically possible for an audience to figure these things out before they’re told to us, but without any clues, that’s impossible.
  • There’s a lot of small changes to dialogue and story progression that I felt would make the play stronger, but hey, now I’m inspired to write my own take on the material. I do wonder though how many refinement passes a Neil LaBute play tends to receive, because while I generally like the ideas in them, they always seem to have a slapdash quality to them.

 

Tales from before the show…

 

Other Neil LaBute shows I’ve seen: Fat Pig, The Mercy Seat, The Break of Noon, and Reasons to be Happy (I know he doesn’t capitalize it but screw that). I didn’t love any of them, but they all provoked a strong reaction from me, and even a negative reaction is better than a ‘meh’ one. If nothing else, I find that if I hate something about his shows, it causes me to think critically about why exactly I hated it and then I learn something about myself. Hooray!

 

I decided to go to this show because I had a 10:30 flight out of JFK and wanted to see a play or movie after work. I felt confident this would be short enough to get out of there in time. An hour before the show I was able to get a ’30-under-30′ ticket, saving me significant cash vs. the 90+ dollar standard ticket price. I hung out in the 2econd stage cafe and a woman struck up a conversation with me. We talked about theater shows in NY vs. London, our respective professions, and some of the VR work I’m doing. She also invests in theater shows. That was cool, because then I was able to bring up her arts interest to the folks at the New Moran during my business meeting the next day in Burlington. Also, Neil LaBute was at the show (oh right, opening night!) and I pointed him out to the woman I was speaking with. Without missing a beat she went to introduce herself. I admire that kind of forthrightness– I should feel more comfortable saying hi by now.

 

Oh yeah, and the timing of the play was perfect– I arrived at my gate in JFK right as boarding began!