Neil LaBute’s Bash: Latterday Plays is a collection of three one-act plays that explores disturbingly well the human ability to do evil. The plays premiered at the Douglas Fairbanks Theater in New York City on June 1999 and featured performances by Ron Eldard, Calista Flockhart and Paul Rudd. It later made its West End theatre premiere on January 10, 2007 at the Trafalgar Studio 2, directed by Tamara Harvey. The fact that the characters, who are self-confessed murderers, were Mormons caused great uproar in the Mormon community and LaBute, a Mormon himself at the time, was disfellowshipped, a step short of excommunication.
In the current revival Mr LaBute has modified the script and has almost completely written out references to the characters’ religion. Not by any means to mollify the Church, but to “do a version that made it more general, because we could all be these people. We all have the capacity to do bad.” as he explains in an interview.
In Iphigenia in Orem a man reveals to a stranger in a Vegas hotel room that the death of his infant daughter was not what everyone had assumed.
In A gaggle of saints two attractive college-age adults, John and Sue, alternately address the audience, never speaking to each other. Each is describing their version of events of a night out in New York City and a chance encounter with a gay man.
In Medea Redux a young woman recounts her intimate relationship, at the age of 13, with her junior-high teacher. Later as she struggles, young, pregnant and alone, she idealizes and protects her former lover, refusing to judge him, until the fateful day that she takes her young child to meet his father.
I deliberately reveal as little as possible of the storylines, because it is that narrative hide and seek, and character subversion that keep the audience on their toes, guessing. In every case the initial impression of the characters is that of wholesome Americans; clean-living, family-values, living the American dream individuals. But, as their yarn unfolds, the cracks in their masks show. Their descriptions are unnervingly accurate and they show no hint of remorse. They have rationalised their actions, set their stories straight and despite their sinister acts, they are in peace with themselves. They believe they have acted on morally and socially acceptable motives. LaBute has drawn inspiration as the titles indicate from the Greek tragics, mostly Euripides the “most humanistic” one, as he is referred to at some point, and in accordance to his tradition LaButes characters are hostages of their flawed humanity, vain, petty, vindictive, narrow-minded, non-empathic.
Philip Scott-Wallace is fast-talking, a little bit charming but mostly smarmy and increasingly creepy. His American accent falters occasionally but his toothy smile has salesman nailed down to a tee. Tom Vallen is quite convincing as the typical jock unleashing the sociopath in him and Dani Harrison is an engaging Miss Prim and Proper, glimpsing on the wild side. While, Rebecca Hickey is so convincing as the simple-minded, malleable and self-deprecating heroine that the intensity of her revenge catches you unawares.
Despite its unmistakable American character and references Bash: Latterday Plays has a universal appeal and mirrors expertly the darkness within and the intricate, unpredictable paths the human mind can follow. Well worth to spend your evening.
- By Neil LaBute
- Directed by Jonathan O’Boyle
- Cast: Philip Scott-Wallace, Tom Vallen, Dani Harrison, Rebecca Hickey
- Trafalgar Studios, London
- Until 7th June 2014
- Time: 19.30
- Review by Katerina Yannouli
- 14 May 2014