Monday, May 21, 2007

From A Dark, Dark Mind

"In A Dark, Dark House" presented by MCC Theatre at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, May 19, 2007

Neil LaBute, resident playwright for MCC Theatre presents his latest effort, "In A Dark, Dark House." From the MCC Theatre's website is this synopsis (Spoiler Alert):
On the grounds of a private psychiatric facility, two family members find themselves brought face to face with each other's involvement in their traumatic past. In court-ordered rehab, Drew calls on his brother, Terry, to corroborate his story of abuse. Drew's request releases barely-hidden animosities between the two; is he using these repressed memories to save himself while smearing the name of his brother's friend and mentor? In Neil LaBute's powerful new play, these siblings must struggle to come to grips with their troubled legacy, both inside and outside their dark family home.
Dark situations, family conflict - not really new ground for Mr. LaBute in this work, but his language feels more wordy than usual. Mr. Labute seems to want a Mamet-like dialogue, but never manages to find the rythm. The result is incomfortable to hear and must be a nightmare for an actor to perform. There's also a what seems to be final revelation which I found very unclear. If I figure out exactly what it was, I'll update this review.

As Drew, Ron Livingston (better known as Berger of the break-up Post-It from "Sex and the City") feels particularly wooden. The character of Drew is practically a train-wreck and Mr. Livingston plays him in a two-dimensional daze. He musters up a bit more emotion late in the play, but at that point it's hardly believable without having seen a bit more vulnerability in earlier interactions.

Louisa Krause's Jennifer comes off as overly precocious, to me, for a 16 year old girl running her father's miniature golf course. (Maybe I need to go back and watch "Pretty Baby" or "Taxi Driver" again to see just what young girls are thought to be capable of.) Even though she's matching wits with a fully grown man, she comes off as more than just wise for her years. Perhaps it's a result of uneven writing, but the result is not totally successful.

It is Frederick Weller who carries the weigh of this play. His Terry (who, by the way, neither looks, nor sounds, nor carries himself in any way that would support the notion that he and Drew are actually brothers) is a spring wound so tightly that the audience is always on the edge of their seats wondering what will set him off and what the fallout will be. From his first entrance, followed shortly by a bit of wrestling with Drew on the hospital grounds, to his seduction (although I'm not sure who really ends up seducing whom) of Jennifer, to his mini explosions in the final scene with Drew, Mr. Weller gives us a man tortured into becoming the facade of a creepy bully.

Director Carolyn Cantor does what she can with a mostly-talented cast and a script that's not quite up to its potential. Right now, it's a long, intermissionless 90 minutes. Maybe a bit of work in the final scene can tighten things up, or at least keep one from noticing the time.

Beowulf Boritt's outdoor multi-level sets show grass sod sliced away that reveal long roots, perhaps indicative of how deep the issues go. I think his interpretation may imply more success in communicating that than Mr. LaBute's script. Ben Stanton's lighting is an appropriate complement.

1 comment:

Cameron said...

Did you get my e-mail?