the fifth wall

This is How it Goes at Studio Theatre

Neil LaBute doesn’t just break the fourth wall, he breaks the building, he breaks your heart and he shows you the cracks in the world. More often than not I leave his plays (or finish reading his stories) feeling broken. Sometimes I find myself enjoying the suffering he’s put me through, masochistically gleeful that he twisted and shattered my world. But other times I’m left wondering if it was worth it.

A man walks on stage and he tells a story. There is no doubt everything we see is from his perspective. Yet he chooses which details he reveals when and he creates moments which he admits may be biased. But he tries to tell us ‘how it goes’ or went. The simple story goes thusly, a man returns to his home town where he runs into his high school crush who is no married to her high school sweetheart, who happens to be black. But it’s Neil LaBute and nothing is simple. The marriage is abusive and soon the narrator has worked his way between them, finding a way to keep and hide secrets from both.

Yet LaBute is not just telling a story of infidelity and disloyalty. Just as in his other works he takes a simple personal story to point out troubles in American society. The story he is telling is about race, about assumptions, and about what we can think of as acceptable. The twists and turns in the story leave the audience unsure of how to view the characters, we like them one minute – we hate them the next. We first blame one – then the other. Yet by the time the dust has settled I blamed no one and rather than like or hate I found myself indifferent. I left not caring about their lives, not caring about how their future settled. Perhaps that was the effect LaBute was after but I wish that he had taken it one step further. I wish I had left feeling broken.

* Note on Reviews: I do not belive that reviews should be a factor in deciding what to see. If something sounds interesting go. If not, still go. Even ‘bad’ theater is better than no theater at all. If you leave feeling the need to discuss it: all the better.

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