LaBute New Theater Festival: Show Review by Lainie Gutterman

On Sunday, my husband Scott and I attended the evening performance of St. Louis Actors’ Studio presents LaBute New Theater Festival at The Davenport Theater (354 W. 45th St.) featuring three one-act plays by Neil LaBute.

“The truth will set you free” was the common theme of the evening. But whose truth is it?

THE FOURTH REICH, directed by John Pierson, is a one man monologue. Actor Eric Dean White plays Karl who is dressed conservatively in a blazer which when removed reveals a burgundy vest with a blue oxford dress shirt underneath. He is wearing a wedding band. He looks like an upstanding citizen who could be a professor/member of academia or a therapist)

Karl asked, “Is there anyone out there with more bad press than Adolf Hitler?”

The audience member behind us responds, “Trump.” This, which was not part of the show, might have been the most entertaining part of the night.

Karl goes on to talk about the Russians. Later, he declares, “All anyone talks about in relations to Hitler is 6 million Jews….that’s where the conversation ends?….A man is never one thing.”

Karl switches gears and brings up the “one bad thing he did as a kid.” Again, he reinforces that “a person is never just one thing…we’re too complex….can’t judge a man…”

The actor has a loud, commanding voice which kept my interest (even though I did not care for the subject matter). Scott is a history buff, so I wrongly assumed he was enjoying this performance.

Scott recently purchased two pieces of artwork for our home. Coincidentally, this politically infused monologue turns to ART. Music marks the end of this performance which is then followed by GREAT NEGRO WORKS OF ART, also directed by John Pierson.

Tom (KeiLyn Durrel Jones) is late to meet Jerri (Brenda Meaney) at an art exhibit. He shows up with a cheap bouquet of ugly flowers from a corner bodega. Jerri is an irritating and annoying know it all. She dislikes liars because of her father. Tom tries to make the best of his time with her, but their first date is awkward and painful. They remind us that some subjects (race, politics, religion, gender issues) should never be discussed on a first date. I kept wondering if the date was going to end painfully or if all of their pent-up rage would lead the to a one-night stand.

UNLIKELY JAPAN was directed by Neil LaBute himself. Katie (Gia Crovatin) is a blonde, attractive, single Caucasian. Her ex-boyfriend Tim Friedman (which happens to be my own maiden name) was killed in the Vegas shooting. Katie hears this on the news while eating a salad. It bothered me that this relationship took place in high school, as Katie was having sex with two different guys as a clean-cut Midwestern looking teen. Tim wins a contest for nude pictures he took of Katie, but she would have been a minor.

The most impactful statement Katie makes is, “People are shot and killed every day in our country, and I don’t even care of feel it anymore.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t feel anything positive about the LaBute New Theater Festival. I don’t blame the actors. They got into the roles and were believable characters, but the scripts didn’t provide any real substance.

Creative team includes: Patrick Huber (Set Design), Megan Harshaw (Costume Design), Jonathan Zelezniak (Technical Director and Light Design), Seth Ward Pyatt (Production Stage Manager), Josephine Roth (Assistant Stage Manager) and Amy J Paige (Production Assistant).

The festival (90 minutes, no intermission) is running through January 27.  Tickets are $47-$57 and can be purchased by visiting or by calling 212-239-6200.