Bash: Latterday Plays, Open Cage Ensemble, at the Viaduct Theater. I’ve never been able to decide whether playwright Neil LaBute, a practicing Mormon, is a moralist who aims to expose our society’s ethical lapses or whether his plays and films are themselves symptoms of moral decay. LaBute is so detached and cynical in this trio of nasty, brutish one-acts–each of which describes an act of extreme cruelty–that it seems both are true.
In “Iphigenia in Orem” a sexist, conformist midlevel executive confesses that he sacrificed his infant daughter to further his rather mediocre career. In “A Gaggle of Saints” a Mormon frat boy revels in a gay bashing he led. And in “Medea Redux” a mother murders her child to get back at the child’s father. In each case, LaBute gives no hint as to how we’re supposed to take the characters. Are they heroes, monsters, or fools? Or a bit of all three?
Joel Ewing sensitively directs each one-act, and relative newcomers to the Chicago scene perform them with energy, intelligence, and commitment. Matt Walkenbach is particularly convincing as the empty, morally bankrupt corporate stooge. But however expertly realized these plays were, I still left the theater unsatisfied, feeling vaguely uneasy. Which, I suspect, is how this Latter-day Saint playwright wanted me to feel.