Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Bash"

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note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Larry Stark


by Neil Labute
Directed by Darren Evans

Box Office Manager Brooke DiGiovanni Evans
Scenic Design by Mathew Breton
Lighting Design by Eric Jacobsen
Sound Design by Darren Evans
Stage Manager Alexandra Hsie

Young Man.......Marc Harpin

John...Michael Underhill
Sue.........Emma Goodman

Woman............Kate Donnelly

Neil Labute always plays hardball. He never wastes a syllable; even what seems farthest from the subject sits around in the mind, waiting like a cobra to strike. What seem like simple acting-exercises reveal a powerful, rhythmic undertow of emotion. And the three parts of "Bash," three monologues --- or is it four? Or maybe one of them is a "duologue," if there is such a word; well, there is now, isn't there? Where was I? These three intensely short plays --- they unfold without intermission in no more than an hour and a half --- each one is a Confessional Play: after a while it's obvious in each case that the speaker is compelled to speak of something unspakable, something unplanned and irrational. (Well, in one of them it's planned, but ... )
Oh hell, you think it's Easy trying to explain what you're in for in these intricately delicate glimpses into perfectly ordinary people's twisted souls without spoiling the shock that Is the essential Labute experience? There's a week-end left, three more performances, Go over and let these unforgettable lives hit you like sledge-hammers. Then maybe we can talk about it.

In one, Marc Harpin sits in a hotel-room telling a person --- telling the audience --- telling a perfect stranger he's singled out, someone who has to listen just as he has to talk, telling him a huge guilty secret, hoping to unburden himself to someone who will probably not even remember it the next morning. Confessional drama, like I just said.

Another --- that duologue, if that's a word --- has two kids --- well okay, Michael Underhill and Emma Goodman play just-engaged hometown-sweethearts talking about how they first met, but concentrating on a trip to New York for a formal ball at the Plaza Hotel. The nice part of this one is that they alternate a sentence or so each, finishing each other's thoughts --- but one of them's glorying in the romantic glow of their burgeoning love, while the other had a wholly different set of "supreme memories". No, I won't say which is which. Go see for yourself.

Then there's a real confession --- I mean a woman who committed a crime (and What a crime!) putting her "statement" to the cops on a tape-recorder. That's Kate Donnelly's real gut-punch piece of perfection. I won't say more till IRNE-time but if you get there this week-end you'll know what I'm talking about.

Both Theatre On Fire and Neil Labute are comitted to a sort of "minimalist drama," and here they are perfectly suited to one another. I mean Matthew Breton's set is a postage-stamp-sized platform in one corner of the room, with banks of seats drawn up close on two sides --- drawn up so close that, in Eric Jacobsen's one bare-bulb overhead light you can see the shadows of Kate Donnelly's eye-lashes on her cheeks. Breton has hung two framed windows on the two angled back walls, filled them with what looks like gauze, or maybe smoke for all I know, and then had a series of different-colored lights making those foggy frames glow with underlining tones. There's no "blocking" really --- I mean Labute, and Darren Evans the director, has each actor sitting the whole time on a chair (okay, the two kids stand up for a final hug for a minute, but, y'know); just sitting, maybe straining forward now and again, but just sitting, and their eyes burning right into the eyes of the audience as they try to enunciate, to articulate exactly what they did, what they felt, how they feel about it now.

Okay, I'm not gonna say any more. These characters are perfectly ordinary people. They seem almost, well, Accidentally guilty. And they almost make you guilty just for listening to them confess. I said Labute always plays hardball, didn't I? He damn well does. See for yourself...


"Bash" (2 - 17 October)
@ Charlestown Working Theatre, 442 Bunker Hill Street, CHARLESTOWN MA

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