Bash: The Latterday Plays
“I left the stage the first night, and the words ‘sick fuck, sick fuck, sick fuck’ kept running over and over through my mind,” says local actor Darcy Villere, who plays John in China Cat’s production of Neil LaBute’s Broadway hit Bash: The Latterday Plays.
“It’s difficult for me because of the characters who are presented in the show, mine really likes what he has done and is doing. And it’s a stretch for me to play someone so … sadistic,” says Villere, who is primarily a comedic actor and children’s theater performer.
Fresh from off-Broadway, the original run of Bash featured Ally McBeal actress Calista Flockhart and actors Paul Rudd and Ron Eldard.
Bash is a series of three one-act plays: Media Redux, in which a woman details her harrowing adolescent affair with a schoolteacher, A Gaggle of Saints, featuring Mormon college students who engage in gay-bashing and Iphigenia in Orem, which features a businessman confessing to a horrific crime that is guaranteed to startle the most seasoned theater-goer.
“I came across a review of the play in Entertainment Weekly,” explains director Michael Coleman. “Something about the description of the play stuck with me, and when I had a chance to read it later, it was a hard read, to say the least. I had to keep putting it down, but I would still constantly think
about it—it kept pulling me back to it. The ugliness that people are capable of—these normal people and how they are able to justify the things that they have done—it was incredibly intense. It was one of the strongest pieces I had read in a long time.”
Coleman is well-known for his local directoral work on such shows as Into the Woods, Piece of My Heart, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Bus Stop and The Merchant of Venice. He is also known for his costume design, most recently for Thom Bach’s Grace and Glory.
“When Michael faxed me the scene he wanted me to do, I was floored,” said actor Greg Stirnaman who tackles the most intense scene in Iphigenia in Orem. “I read it three times before I could even stomach it. I have four daughters, and it tears me up every time—how this person is justifying the unjustifiable.”
Playwright Neil LaBute, a BYU graduate, may be better known for his big screen successes: Your Friends and Neighbors, In the Company of Men and, most recently, the dark comedy smash Nurse Betty. LaBute, a Latterday Saint (Mormon) convert, has received mixed reactions to his work, but none perhaps as strongly as to Bash, as all of the characters are Latter-day Saints.
“It’s not Mormon-bashing,” says Coleman. “LaBute was taking the perceived pristineness of these people and showing that these good people are capable of this . . . evil. It makes you look inward if anything.”
“I read the play, and I was shocked. I asked Michael, ‘Why should this be done?’ “ says actress Whitney Deatherage. “There’s no rainbows at the end.” “Theater for entertainment’s sake is wonderful,” argues Coleman. “But this play is for thought, and everyone who has seen it has come out of it with something. My partner never discusses my work with me much, but he kept talking about this one and asking questions and discussing the characters. It really is a play that will stay with people for a long time afterward.”
“Working on a small stage like the Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre with an audience this intimate lends a lot to this show,” asserts Coleman. “It’s pretty intense. These words are so ugly and they are right in front of you, and you can’t get away from them. I think on the larger stage, the characters tend to get lost in the projection, but in this space, all those subtle, natural reactions and gestures are able to come out.”
Coleman has assembled a cast of local well-knowns to tackle perhaps the most difficult roles of their careers to date. Also joining the cast is Melissa Craib, who returns to Sacramento theater after a two-year absence.
Bash may prove to be a disturbing experience for many, one that will expose audiences to a side of human nature not often explored—but perhaps one that they should be aware of. “These may be good people,” says Stirnaman, “but the things they do are just pure evil.”
“It is not so much what evil humans are capable of doing that is so chilling and tragic,” reads a passage from the program of Bash, "but it is our terrifying capacity for rationalization, denial and dehumanizing dishonesty."