It’s taken a while for me to come around to the kinds of plays Neil LaBute writes. It’s not so much a reversal of opinion as it is a sense (maybe) of what he’s driving at. Bottom line, I think, LaBute is saying this: For the sake of discussion, let’s assume the worst about people and—within the safe boundaries of theater and “fiction”—find the truth of what it means when rough-riding human nature takes over from our better instincts. Profiles Theatre has spent the last few months focused solely on LaButian bile, and the various productions have served to re-expose the patterns (talk about a formulaic writer) and highlight LaBute’s strengths as a seriously irrepressible thinker. “Nothing’s simple,” says Terry, the older brother in this story about fraternal fissures and childhoods abused. “Simple’s not even simple anymore.” No, it’s not. Blood-bonds can be a dangerous nest of glass and tangled weeds, and yet they are an unshakable link to identity and personal history, and this is what comes through strongest in Joe Jahraus’ production. Our families make us, but as adults we must decide what to make of ourselves. The best of LaBute’s plays (including “This is How it Goes,” recently at Profiles) make for unpleasant company—emotionally infuriating, but intellectually potent. Here he veers from standard-issue thinking and posits the question: What if a teenager were sexually abused and maybe didn’t completely hate it exactly? The ways this might screw with a guy’s head later in life are many, and Terry (a man of unkempt anger and careless social skills played by Darrell W. Cox) is not about to let himself, or anyone else, off the hook. His younger brother, Drew (Hans Fleishmann, smartly turned out as a slick operator with a Styrofoam heart), is a source of reliable angst. Cox gives a killer performance in the first scene when the brothers come face-to-face. It’s the yuppie versus the beard, and Cox tunes his voice low and rumbly, like he just woke up—and in some ways, his character just did. Cox can’t sustain that controlled momentum in later scenes—some of that is due to the script—and the production loses its direction. The play isn’t perfect. The last-minute revelations, a LaBute trademark by now, don’t offer much narratively speaking. But you are left with the sense that something real and quantifiable and scarily human just happened on stage this night. Dismiss it at your peril. (Nina Metz)
At Profiles Theatre, 4147 North Broadway, (773)549-1815. This production is now closed.