Member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle
Neil LaBute, the author of IN A FOREST, DARK AND DEEP, now on stage at none too fragile theatre, is noted for writing plays and movies filled with hatred, distrust and disdain for humans and human nature.
His writing style, where characters hold supreme over the plot, are filled with terse, rhythmic and language-oriented speeches. Much like his mentor, David Mamet, he also stresses relationships, political correctness and macho attitudes.
LaBute is often accused of being an unforgiving judge of the ugliest side of human nature. In each of his scripts, one or more of his characters often has a dark underbelly, and is self-absorbed.
The author is usually brutally clear in delineating the bad guys in his plots and takes on topics that others avoid. For example, in FAT PIG, he confronts the role of subtle and overt mistreatment of overweight women.
He often has a surprise or shocking ending to his plays. LaBute has been called “a moralist who seems to delight in depicting human cruelty and in hoodwinking an audience.” IN A FOREST, DARK AND DEEP, both of these traits hold fast. He pulls the rug from under the emotional feet of the viewer, by throwing in an ending that many couldn’t predict would be coming.
The play opens with Bobby, a carpenter, entering a cabin in disarray just outside of an unspecified college town. He has been asked to come to help Betty, his older sister, the Dean of Liberal Arts, to empty out the place, as she wishes to rent it out now that the tenant has suddenly moved out.
The duo is a classic example of sibling rivalry. They had an overbearing father, a conflicted childhood, and long time differences concerning the purpose of life. Betty, is married, with two children, educated and worldly. Bobby, twice divorced, crude, quick tempered, outspoken, and seemingly not concerned over civil correctness.
A storm rages both outside and inside. As the duo bickers, their troubled history is revealed. Truth and deceptiveness flow forth, with an unexpected ending. The writer highlights, “the lies you tell yourself to get by.”
‘Nuff said. Giving away too much of the plot would ruin the experience for those who will go see the play, so no spoiler alert is needed here.
In 2013, LaBute was named one of the winners of the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Awards in Literature.
As much as I tend to like LeBute plays, IN A FOREST, DARK AND DEEP is not one of his best works. Though I found the ending, much a like Jeffrey Archer or O. Henry surprise ending, enticing, the play is much too long. LeBute needed to apply a red pencil to about fifteen minutes of the hundred minute no-intermission work. After a while, enough of the bickering was enough.
If LeBute didn’t cut the length of the script, then director Andrew Narten should have.
Both Sean Derry as Bobby and Leighann Niles Delorenzo as Betty were outstanding. They sparred like fighters in a ring, feigning, attacking, hitting each other with verbal sledge hammers. When the ranting and raving was over, not only the actors, but the audience was exhausted.
Capsule judgement: Sean Derry and Leighann Niles Delorenzo light up the none too fragile stage in this battle of deception, lies, and false values. Though overly long, Neil LaBute’s IN A FOREST, DARK AND DEEP still makes for an interesting evening of theater.
For tickets for IN A FOREST, DARK AND DEEP, which runs through September 19, 2015, call 330-671-4563 or go to nonetoofragile.com