Theater that makes you squirm: It could be a theme in much of playwright/film director Neil LaBute’s work. And we’ve got it in spades in the second half of the 2016 Labute New Theater Festival, under the aegis of St. Louis Actors’ Studio, now at the Gaslight Theater.
As has been the tradition, LaBute gives us a new short play which opens both halves of the Festival, so as we did a fortnight ago, the evening opens with his Life Model with Bridgette Bassa and Jenny Smith. It’s always interesting to see how work evolves over the course of a run, and here’s an easy way to indulge in that exercise. (You can read what I said about that here.)
American Outlaws, by Adam Seidel, pairs Eric Dean White and David Wassilak as a couple of guys who are not quite so respectable as they look. Great work from both actors and a tale of murder for hire that’s full of twists that start the squirming early. There’s nothing subtle about Laurence Klavan’s Show of Affection, a sort of Grand Guignol work with delightfully over-the-top work from Emily Baker, the mother of quite a family. Wassilak is the deadpan father, Bassa the daughter and Ryan Foizey her twin brother.
And then there’s Blue Balls. There was some speculation among audience members about whether the name of author Willie Johnson was a nom di whatever. Makes no difference. Here Foizey is a young man in a wheelchair who baits White as he waits for a first date with the young man’s mother. Interesting, funny at times, and definitely squirmish.
John Pierson directed Life Model and American Outlaws and Patrick Huber was at the helm for Show of Affection and Blue Balls. Always an interesting evening with this event, and kudos to SLAS for keeping us intrigued.
LaBute New Theater Festival, Part 2
through July 31
360 N. Boyle