Filthy Talk for Troubled Times

Neil LaBute
Phantom Owl Productions
Basic Mountain

There are two impressive strengths to this riveting production of Neil LaBute’s early play Filthy Talk for Troubled Times. The first is the writing; the other is the confident electrifying delivery of that writing by a cast of powerful American actors.

Set in a topless bar, the play takes the form of a series of short monologues by the four male customers and two waitresses. Each speaks with the same edgy insecurity, masked in the males by a brutal exaggerated masculinity.

The subject of what they say in different forms is the terrible things men can do to maintain a flawed control. A strength of LaBute’s writing is that even as a character callously describes some moment of supposed triumph, he is revealing some brutal weakness.

La Bute’s sympathies in this show are with the women. The women characters are the ones that long for a real relationship that seems blocked by the hard insensitivity of the men. One of the waitresses resolves to smile and really engage the next man who approaches only to have the idea crash when that next man tucks a money bill into her underwear.

LaBute could not have asked for finer actors to deliver his terse, rhythmic language. It will be a long time before I forget the actor Dean Chekvala playing one of the customers who, with a grim hard smile, recounts what happened when as a child he had stepped into a room to witness his father in a sexual encounter with a woman who wasn’t his mum. The actor Steve Connell is also unsettling in his character's account of the meaning to his mostly passive quietness during the show.

This is a production that deserves to be seen for its writing which illustrates many of LaBute’s major themes from gay bashing to troubled childhoods and for the quality of its performances from a group of strong American actors.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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