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Posted 08 Dec 2001   For week ended December 07, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 07Dec01

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," LaBute said.

Despite the New York reception for "The Shape of Things," LaBute told 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 into song."

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," LaBute said.

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 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.

See also:

Labute in London: Controversial Mormon Playwright &Director Has New Play
Mormon News 18May01 A2


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