This review was originally published in April, 2008 in the Windy City Times newspapers.
Go ahead, call him gimmicky and formulaic. As he catalogues the sins of middle class man’s burden in his prodigious, profligate output, playwright Neil LaBute is quite often just that. Yet every now and then within his obsessively watchable parables of men behaving sociopathically, LaBute produces a white-hot gleam of brilliance that glares like a klieg light on a colony of cockroaches. In a Dark Dark House is one such testimony to the horrifying depths the lurk within the author of Bash and Lepers.
In 90 minutes and three characters, Profiles Theatre presents Dark House as a skin-crawling story of intense emotional and physical violence. With his toxic trio of a cast, director Joe Jahraus finishes off Profiles Theatre’s all-LaBute season in creeptacular fashion.
Those familiar with LaBute know that he invariably ends his tales with a twist. Sometimes it’s a mighty cork-screwering as shocking as a T-bone steak served during a high Hindu holiday, sometimes it’s as contrived (and ultimately useless) as a Rube Goldberg machine.
The endgame pivot of Dark House comes in a final, wordless moment during which the sicker of two brothers finally shows himself as a threat not only to himself, but to others as well – and how. But long before we get to that final reveal (which LaBute junkies will see coming), we get to know siblings Drew (Hans Fleischmann, menacing and pathetic as a non-recovering addict and a disbarred attorney) and Terry (Darrell W. Cox). The two are uneasy and estranged as they try to suss each other out during visiting hours at the upscale rehab facility where Drew is in court-ordered detox. The ex-lawyer has the lingo of recovery down cold and talks earnestly about acting out, repressed childhood traumas and rigorous honesty. But Drew is also itchy and skittery; this visit isn’t about any searching and fearless moral inventory. He wants something.
To talk more about what actually happens wouldn’t do, but it’s worth noting that all three scenes take place in relatively isolated enclaves. After the rehab center, we move to an all-but deserted miniature golf course for 20 minutes of mesmerizing dialogue that will leave you skeeved out to the point of wanting a shower and amazed at the depths of credible corruption Cox can dredge up. Equally disturbing way – in a vastly different way – is Allison Torem as Jennifer, the jailbait teenage who manages the course. Mindlessly shaking her business end to Kelis’ salacious “Milkshake,” Jennifer is 16 going on a used up 40, a child who is aware of the power but not the danger inherent to unleashing her sex appeal on the wrong kind of guy.
“Kids, they’re all that matters in the end,” Drew notes wistfully, drink in hand as he presides over the suburban barbeque that ends the piece. Perhaps. But within House, that importance has dark implications.
In a Dark, Dark House ran through May 11, 2008 at Profiles Theatre.
To read reviews of other Profiles productions click here (Kid Sister) here (Great Falls), here (Among the Thugs), here (Body Awareness) here (Killer Joe), here (Great Falls), here (Men of Tortuga), here (Thugs) , here (The Mercy Seat) or here (The Wonderful World of Dissocia).