note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Beverly Creasey
Aside from those wacky reality game shows and a few sitcoms, the only thing you can find on television these days is violence: perpetrating it, investigating it or sewing up the carnage. Three hundred and ninety-nine channels on cable---and nothing for a non-violent soul to watch! Hollywood isnít much better. Unless thereís an ďart houseĒ cinema near you, youíre out of luck. Itís no wonder tourists think the U.S. is a lawless wasteland, judging by the popular culture we export. Neil Labute has carved out (!) a nifty niche for himself in the theater (and movies) with his dark, unnerving scripts about the wretched human condition. Theodore Dreiser, Somerset Maugham and Flannery OíConner laid the groundwork for the runaway id ---but LaBute removes any vestige of compassion in his versions.
LaButeís BASH is everything you think that title can mean. Theatre on Fire (in its fifth season at the Charlestown Working Theatre presenting edgy, contemporary work) gives LaButeís visceral play a thorough working over: LaButeís three monologues (one of them a duet of sorts) get taut, stylish, uncompromising attention from director Darren Evans and company. Theyíre meant to make you squirm and do you ever! BASH plays through Oct. 17th.
The first monologue has you suspecting the worst but hoping against hope that your instincts are wrong. Marc Harpinís character trudges toward the unthinkable with deft dramatic momentum. The second scene of counterpoint monologues has Emma Goodman and Michael Underhill coolly reliving the ďadventuresĒ they had in New York City. Your blood will run cold as much for Underhillís complete lack of conscience as for Goodmanís utter cluelessness. LaBute knows how to twist an ending onto a yarn and Evansí actors know how to play up the suspense.
The final monologue is his best, weaving allusion and myth into a tragedy of classic proportions. Kate Donnelly is superb as the teenage mother who canít forget the teacher who seduced her. The silver folds in the screens of Matthew Bretonís gorgeous window-sized installations dance in Eric Jacobsenís waves of light, a shimmering contrast to the squeamish tales unfolding before us.