Review – Bash: Latter Day Plays by Neil LaBute
– by Jennie Orton
Hardline Productions has chosen the somewhat daunting task of showcasing the dark and socially scathing Bash: Latter Day Plays by Neil LaBute. The result is mixed, but definitely affecting.
The play consists of three different accounts of three different life-changing events. Each character is essentially confessing something that they have never told anyone else before. The original format for the play was to have each of the three scenes played out separately, but director Mack Gordon decided to feature them as rapid-fire tales, each delivered simultaneously by some miracle of choreographed timing. It makes it easy for the audience to be gripped on a sometimes lengthy build-up.
Running at about 80 minutes with no intermission, the play quite skilfully paces itself with a slow burn leading up to the three final reveals, which are all more dark and devastating than the last. This play serves to face the audience with an undeniable exploration of the dark side of human nature, one it routinely appears LaBute believes is bigger than the light.
The knowledge that this is the intent of the play does not come in the form of interpretation of the performances or in the shrewdness of the directing, both of which are impressive. It comes due to the puzzling choice to play audio clips of an interview with LaBute wherein he maps out his intent with Orson Welles-ian smugness. As such, the audience is effectively, and almost immediately, robbed of their right to interpretation. With a play this humanistic, interpretation makes it more telling in the hearts of those watching; instead of facing what these stories might tell us about ourselves, we instead know how he wants us to think. Which is a shame.
The cast was more than capable to achieve this with their performances. Caitlin McCarthy and Cameron Anderson were standouts as high school sweetheart college kids recounting the story of a surprisingly unfortunate trip to New York City. Such characters could have been turned into caricatures but McCarthy and Anderson give them a rich sense of obliviousness and entitlement respectively that make them dangerously relatable and charmingly vapid all at once. No easy feat.
All in all, the play was well-directed for being set in the challengingly small yet effectively intimate stage at Hardline Studios (68 Water St.). Despite the spoon-feeding of the point, Bash left much for the human brain to face and mull over.
Bash runs June 29-30 and July 5-10 tickets are by donation and can be arranged through firstname.lastname@example.org