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BWW Review: LA BUTE NEW THEATER FESTIVAL at 59E59 is Outstanding


Theatre enthusiasts will be thrilled by the LaBute New Theater Festival now onstage at 59E59 Theaters. There are four distinctive one-act plays being performed in the venue's intimate theater space through February 5th. Each of the plays strikes a different mood, making the entire program fascinating. Three of the plays were chosen from more than 400 entries received from professional playwrights all over the world, and they received their world premieres at past LaBute New Theater Festivals held at St. Louis Actors' Studio's Gaslight Theater. Neil LaBute's new play, What Happens in Vegas, is a World Premiere.

The show opens with What Happens in Vegas, written by Neil LaBute and directed by Kel Haney. This sexy, intriguing piece takes place in a Vegas hotel room where "Him" (Michael Hogan) has hired a Las Vegas prostitute, "Her" (Clea Alsip). But Him is budget conscious about the cost of services. Her is all business as she gives Him some "nice guy discounts" and tallies his bill from the menu that includes "small talk" and "horseplay." This cleverly crafted show has a series of humorous moments that make it a uniquely entertaining theatrical piece.

American Outlaws by Adam Seidel, directed by John Pierson is a play with surprising twists and turns. In this two-hander, Martin (Justin Ivan Brown) is hired as a hit-man by Mitch (Eric Dean White). Martin is a dangerous, duplicitous character and Mitch is a very nervous accountant who has gotten into some serious financial problems. It is soon revealed that the men have a common love interest, Mitch's wife Susan. As this complex story unfolds and the tension between the two men mounts, you will be on the edge of your seat.

Homebody by Gabe McKinley, directed by John Pierson is a well-crafted play that has shades of an unfortunate reality. Jay (Michael Hogan) is an aspiring writer and an unemployed, discontent young man who lives with his overbearing and demanding Mother (Donna Weinsting). Their contentious relationship improves briefly when Jay receives a letter from a publisher who wants to discuss his novel. But his success is temporary and the mother-son relationship soon takes a turn for the worse.

Mark My Worms by CaRy Pepper, directed by Michael Hogan is an appealing, comedic portrayal of a show rehearsal. After the noted playwright Montclair dies, a play that was never produced is discovered by his estate. The script is full of typographical errors and misspelled words, but it must be performed as written. It is up to the director, John (Justin Ivan Brown) along with the actors Mason (Eric Dean White) and Gloria (Clea Alsip) to make sense of it. And it is Gloria who insists that ridiculous lines like "I have a bun" instead of "I have a gun" have a deep, meaningful interpretation.

Bravo to the outstanding group of playwrights, directors and the actors who bring LaBute New Theater Festival to the stage. And the Creative Team has done a wonderful job with set design by Patrick Huber; lighting design by Jonathan Zelezniak; costume and prop design by Carla Evans; scenic design by Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center and sound design by St. Louis Actors' Studio. The Production Stage Manager is Seth Ward Pyatt; Assistant Stage Manager is Andrea Lessard and the Production Assistant is Amy Paige.

The LaBute Theater Festival is an event that shouldn't be missed. Metro area audiences are fortunate to have the opportunity to see the program's four new theatrical gems.

LaBute Theater Festival is produced by St. Louis Actors' Studio with William Roth as Founder and Artistic Director. The production runs for 2 hours with one 10 minute intermission. It will be performed at 59E59 Theaters through February 5th. The theater is located at 59 East 59th Street (between Madison and Park Avenues). For tickets, call Ticket Central at 212.279.4200 and visit

Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg

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