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5/21/15

Neil LaBute-ing all over The Way We Get By

At the end of the day, I can make room in my theatre schedule for a Neil LaBute play…and yet, still maintain my self-respect and good taste in theatre (no, really). And I know I am not being open-minded or forward-thinking in my *tolerance* of LaBute…he is not infallible, but I can’t help but love that fact that he doesn’t give a single fuck. Seriously, no fucks. LaBute will write about controversial shit that most writers would shy away from simply out of the speculation it would bring.

And about half-way through The Way We Get By, holding up at the Second Stage Theatre, there is a reveal that only LaBute would incorporate into his plays. Up until that moment however, TWWGB plays out like a basic standard "morning-after" drama, in which the uncommonly good-looking Thomas Sadoski and live-action Margaret Keane painting Amanda Seyfried awkwardly stumble around and converse. But then the reveal happens and it is not just a shocking moment - one that the audience I was in was frozen over for about 30 seconds mildly laughing and trying to process everything - but it is also a disturbing one. 

But in the LaBute-iverse, pffttt, bitches please...it is just par for the course.

So yeah, TWWGB is a LaBute play and if you didn’t gather that impression from the beginning, his thumbprint is practically unavoidable from the midway point till the last second. But as a whole, TWWGB is a LaBute mixed-big. Its relevance is debatable and the dialogue doesn’t beckon laughs or meaning every minute (Or three minutes. Or ten minutes). With how the story unfolds, there is seemingly nothing of substance other then…”well, this is happening, so fuck it.”

At least with the The Money Shot, which is LaBute at his best with hilariously over-the-top action, had a moment or two of subtext that lingers about. TWWGB has none of that and the entertainment value is inconsistent throughout. And while the ending is a nice touch - and the shenanigans with duct tape (of all things) are quite funny - I only welcomed it because it was surprisingly optimistic coming from the typical doom-and-gloom that is a LaBute ending.

All of this is not meant to take away from Leigh Silverman’s quality direction, or Sadoski or Seyfried’s hard work in bringing their characters to some uncomfortable places. Sadoski, in particular, is charismatic as fuck and the perfect vehicle for Labute-ian dialogue: spazzy, funny and no-holds barred. Will someone somewhere just cast him in everything because I love him so much? Please and thank you. 

And will someone somewhere stage another production of Reasons to be Pretty or The Money Shot within driving distance of my house? Because I want to laugh my ass off along with LaBute’s misanthropy without having to sheepishly defend him. Tell me that’s a tall order and I’ll believe you. But when the man brings his A-game - which The Way We Get By is hardly it - he’s worth keeping around.


Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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