Bash: The Latterday Plays of Neil LaBute
“I realized then what this was—an opportunity—and I wasn’t going to waste it,” intones a hollow-eyed traveling salesman who has washed up on shore in a Las Vegas bar to unburden his soul.
This conversation between a penitent and an uninterested stranger could be a setup for many a playwright—an introduction to a tale of greed or ambition … until we learn the nature of the evil this man has to confess. It involves the death of a child. His own child. As in the child that was one mouth too many to feed.
And this man (played with laser precision by Greg Stirnaman)is just one of a series of characters desperately in search of a catharsis in Neil LaBute’s Bash: the Latterday Plays of Neil LaBute, a triptych of accounts of journeys to the dark fringes of the human soul, all direct riffs on classic Greek tragedy.
Better known these days for his films, stark explorations into everyday evil (In the Company of Men, Your Friends and Neighbors, Nurse Betty), LaBute returned to his roots with this trilogy in 1999, exploring the ancient and enduring themes of revenge, jealousy, lost innocence … and murder.
In Media Redux, Whitney Deatherage plays a young woman who relates her crime in the local police station: how she was seduced by her seventh-grade teacher, got pregnant, was abandoned, raised the child and then years later introduced the young boy to his father, with a predictably miserable conclusion.
Greg Stirnaman protects his … quality of life in Iphigenia in Orem (In what is probably the single most uncomfortable theatrical experience I have yet had).
In A Gaggle of Saints, Darcy Villere (whose Pre-Raphaelite-angel features make a chilling contrast with his vicious actions) and Melissa Craib reflect on the loveliest night of all—the night they went to New York to celebrate their anniversary—a night that involved both sweet tenderness and stark brutality.
Director Michael Coleman has done his job well; these are some of the hardest plays in the world, made all the more compelling by their staging at the intimate Thistle Dew Theatre. Bash is ugly, horrifying even, and yet devastatingly resonant. It’s is not for the faint or tender of heart. Seriously.