Monday, Apr. 25, 2011

Bash: Latterday Plays (1997 Off-Broadway Show; 2001 TV Show)

Nice people do dreadful things. That's the message of playwright and filmmaker Neil LaBute in such bright-faced, squirmy comedy dramas as In the Company of Men, Your Friends and Neighbors and, for that matter, his 2006 remake of The Wicker Man, the 1970s bucolic horror film. Sometimes these amiable folks with deep reservoirs of sadism are Mormons, the faith LaBute converted to while a student at Brigham Young University. The three monologues in Bash are spoken in muted, conversational tones by actors — Paul Rudd, Ron Eldard and Ally McBeal's Calista Flockhart — whose demeanor says, "I'm the fresh, open face of America. Who could not love and trust a Mormon?" But as the flirtations and practical jokes in their stories escalate into senseless murders (of a gay man and two children), LaBute craftily spells out his belief in the sickness under those bland LDS smiles. If Mormon elders had the vengeful righteousness of Islamic clerics, they'd issue a fatwa on LaBute, their least forgiving, most prodigal son.

Correction appended: The original version of this slide incorrectly stated that Neil Labute was raised in the Mormon faith.