St. Louis Actors’ Studio has had a relationship with playwright-screenwriter Neil LaBute for several years. They just finished a second year of taking their annual Neil LaBute New Theater Festival to New York for a four-week run. Each of those festivals included a brand-new LaBute short play. Now SLAS has opened Labute’s The Way We Get By, a relatively new (2015) short play from him.
It’s about a man and a woman who had to much to drink and ended up in bed together. Anyone who’s experienced more than a couple of LaBute plays knows he doesn’t create polite drawing-room comedies, so it’s probably better to go no further into the plot. LaBute’s folks are also pretty consistently, uh, quirky, so one of the questions the audience might be asking not long into the play is who’s the crazier, him or her?
The man, Doug, is Andrew Rea, reasonably young, reasonably attractive, but more than passing strange, we soon discover. Sophia Brown plays Beth, the tousle-headed woman about the same age. Were they strangers? Why is he hanging around even though...oh, never mind. That’s only the beginning of a long string of questions that need answering.
The acting is more than merely fine, on both Rea and Brown’s parts. The problem here is the script. It’s not up to LaBute’s usual standards, stretching things out far too long. In this 90-minute work, it’s half an hour in before there’s even a half-serious hint about what might be going on. It’s an intellectual strip tease that goes on. And on. And on.
Nancy Bell does her best to keep things moving, with a lot of physical choreography between Rea and Brown. Patrick Huber’s carefully created set plays a role in things, looking like just what a woman of about that age would create. Carla Landis Evans did the costumes – what there are of them, under the circumstances.
Nope. Not LaBute’s best use of his time.
The Way We Get By
through February 26
St. Louis Actors’ Studio
360 N. Boyle