By Rosemary Pollock
Even After Sept. 11th, LaBute's Work Doesn't Change
WASHINGTON, DC -- "The Shape of Things," suffered an ill-timed debut
in New York off-Broadway at the Promenade Theater just weeks after
the World Trade Center attack. Controversial playwright and director,
Neil LaBute, had received critical acclaim when the play opened in
London at the beginning of the year, but the tragic story of personal
cruelties by LaBute's characters was more than the public could bear
after the horrors of Sept. 11.
"It didn't even occur to us that it wouldn't be well received. It had
already been well received [in London]. And yet I think we kind of
ran into something that I had heard whispers of and seen in other
productions, which is that difficult trans-Atlantic move, where
critics say, hold on a second, we'll tell you if something is good,"
Despite the New York reception for "The Shape of Things," LaBute told
Salon.com in a recent interview that his work hasn't changed since
September 11th. "Since [Sept. 11] I've been thinking of possibly
doing a film of 'The Shape of Things,' " he told interviewer Kerry
Lauerman. "But the things I have been working on -- I have been
working on a musical." But he then added that the musical isn't what
you might expect, "The musical is as severe as anything that I've
ever written. Because I thought, you know, I've never seen a musical
where people were generally pretty heinous, and they would just burst
But, he also told Lauerman, that he just might have sweeter material
in him somewhere, "probably deep inside I have one of those soft
gooey centers like, you know, a Tootsie Roll Pop had and I just don't
know how many licks it will take to get to, nobody's bothered to lick
down that far."
Raised in Liberty Lake, Washington, LaBute later attended Brigham
Young University where he joined The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints. "I was inundated with all the trappings of the
religion and I found it quite comforting. Sometimes I wonder how much
my conversion had to do with me being away from home for the first
time and was maybe tied to the security I needed at the time. I
grapple with that occasionally, but the big stuff I have no real
trouble with. There's nothing I like more than the idea of faith.
People can study and discuss the nature of it all they like but it
just comes down to making that leap. Also, I figure what's the worst
case scenario if I'm wrong - that I've lived a relatively good life,"
London Observer critic, Sean O'Hagan, called LaBute "a nice human
being who specializes in depicting the often despicable nature of
everyday lives. His words are to be savored, even as you choke in
disbelief on them." LaBute's credits include the film "In the Company
of Men," "Friends and Neighbors," "Bash," and last fall's popular
film "Nurse Betty." LaBute claims that the script went against his
instincts. "I liked working within the constraints of that genre and
the studio system. But, that said, my instinct was to have her plane
explode at the end. I suppose the fact that she ended up alone and
disillusioned with the American dream was enough. I just couldn't
have done the pat Hollywood happy ending. It's not in my nature to go
along with that big lie that they tell us over and over and that has
no correlation in reality," LaBute explained.
The misanthrope speaks
Salon.com 26Nov01 A2
By Kerry Lauerman
Neil LaBute, our leading spokesperson for the beast within, talks about art, letter bombs and critics in the wake of Sept. 11.
Labute in London: Controversial Mormon Playwright &Director Has New Play
Mormon News 18May01 A2