Review by Tulis McCall
(23 Nov 2010)
Well, this one broke lose and got out of the county with no recovery in sight.
The story of John Smith (puh-leeze) begins with an excellent LaBute monologue. John Smith was in the bathroom at work when the shooter exited the elevator and started shooting. Smith crawled past one cubicle after another trying to escape. He passed by a woman in the copy center who had had her throat slit. Clearly the killer had to make a tiny detour from his shooting path to step inside and slit her throat. When Smith and the shooter finally confront one another, Smith hears a voice, “Stay where you are and you shall be saved.” He does and he is.
Of course “saved” means a lot of things. Smith was saved in that he lived when no one else, including the shooter did. He was also “saved” in the sense that he becomes a mouthpiece for the Lord, but the rest of the world (as we see them) is just nor buying it: from his lawyer, to his ex-wife, to the television host, to his girlfriend, to the hooker he hires, and finally the detective who will not put the case to rest. As John is handed off from one person to the next his story unravels and his life gets no better.
In typical LaBute fashion, Smith does not get better. He does not transform or learn lessons that further his development. Instead he clings to his version of the truth like it was Cinderella’s glass slipper and keeps trying to make it accommodate his size 14 foot. While you have to admire him for trying, surely there would be some change – for better or worse – that resulted from this determination. But here there doesn’t seem to be any change. The result is that the story hits a plateau early on and never breaks stride after that.
It is possible that David Duchovny could have given more to John Smith. He is not a bad actor but this is, if I read the program correctly, Duchovny’s first play. Considering the fact that he is on stage the entire evening, it is a stretch to think that anyone could tackle this enormous role effectively their first time out. Whatever Duchovny’s experience is, it is not up to the task. A better choice might have been to cast a seasoned stage actor in the role and let Mr. Duchovny do his learning on a smaller scale. That would be a start.
The supporting cast does brilliant double work, especially Tracee Chimo as the TV interviewer. But even these characters are uneven and, as they are the directional guides for the story, do not lend themselves to and kind of a satisfactory trajectory.
Because this is LaBute, it is not a dull evening. It is simply not as satisfying as previous plays. The production seems to have missed a step in its development. Though thought provoking, it is not fulfilling. Like a misfiring engine, this play needs attention.