THEATER REVIEW: Neil LaBute’s bash

In Neil LaBute’s bash, the writer takes your classmate, neighbor and sibling and crafts them all into criminals. Not hardened inmates in jumpsuits or products of traumatic upbringings, but rather everymen who made one terrible decision. Eastcheap Rep’s current production dives into the inner workings of these complicated characters with moderate success.

The two monologues that make up the first act each seem to pause to explain themselves. Almost too carefully, the characters lay out exactly why they will be talking alone for 40 minutes, instead of just jumping directly into the meat of the story. Chelsea Lagos, in her portrayal of the “Young Woman” is stuck in the 14-year-old voice of her character’s past, which makes her actual age hard to determine. The obvious villain of her story is the teacher that takes advantage of his student, but Lagos’ cold delivery and lack of regret help her character channel the Euripides version of Medea that inspired the piece.

In “Iphigenia in Orem,” Luke Rosen’s “Young Man” speaks to the victims of today’s financial crisis. Although bash was written in 1999, Young Man’s fear of layoffs and his desire to protect his standard of living for his family resonates well with a 2009 audience. Although we cannot sympathize with his cannibalistic instincts, Rosen develops a rich character that allows us to peek inside his mind and forces us to ask ourselves if we think he is truly a monster or just a misguided man in a weak moment.

The play and the actors both hit their stride in the second act. While the characters rarely hear each other, the rhythm of their dialogue plays nicely and provides a break from the monologues. Lagos’ Sue is jarring in her inexperience and blind love for her partner. She is deaf to John’s violence in the story and in their lives. Once again, Rosen takes a character from the not-so-distant past and enables him to speak directly to a modern audience. With Prop 8 still fresh, John is a reminder of the blind bigotry that is still alive today.

After overcoming a few bumps in the first act, the production ultimately delivers a satisfying experience.

Neil LaBute’s bashruns through September 19th and is playing at The Paradise Factory (64 East 4th St. btwn 2nd Ave & Bowery). For more information go to their website HERE.

Elizabeth Sorrell

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