Neil LaBute’s ‘In a Dark Dark House’ Unearths Long-Buried Skeletons in Three-Person Play
CHICAGO – It’s not in calm seas but within torrential rains when we lay bare our true colors. Lauded playwright Neil LaBute was fixated on testing these human limits and exploring our different styles of conflict resolution when he minted the three-person play “In a Dark Dark House”.
The skeletons buried deep in the past of two brothers are unearthed in an early mid-life crisis that forces Terry (played by Profiles Theatre associate artistic director Darrell W. Cox) and Drew (played by Hans Fleischmann) to experience court-ordered rehab as a brotherly duo.
Photo credit: Thad Hallstein
While Terry is reluctantly agreeable to help with the corroboration of Drew’s vexing story, he’s also skeptical and harbors long-brewing animosities against him. For LaBute, the narrative holds weighty implication in front of Windy City theatergoers.
“This has been a really incredible experience: having a company devote itself to seeing that my work – both full plays and a number of shorter pieces – gets in front of a Chicago audience,” LaBute said about the Profiles Theatre’s decision to devote the entirety of its 2007 to 2008 season to him.
“In a Dark Dark House” first opened in New York in 2007. The Chicago production marks its second performance and Midwest premiere. Also a filmmaker, LaBute’s newest film – “Lakeview Terrace” – stars Samuel L. Jackson and is scheduled for a Sept. 2008 release.
“I started out as a Chicago writer and still consider myself that,” LaBute added. “I’m happy to give even one of my newest plays like ‘In a Dark Dark House’ to Profiles because I know they will take good care of it.”
In the Chicago presentation, Cox clearly shines most brightly as the star of the show and wears the act of the apathetic, raspy, working-class outcast like a glove. Whether animated or meek, all eyes and ears are set squarely on him as Cox nearly single-handedly carries the show.
Though Fleischmann’s character oscillates between the loony bin type and an accomplished lawyer, just sporting a suit doesn’t mean he can pull off a grown and married man with kids. While honestly believing some of his moments of uncertainty, embarrassment and dread as an actor, it was the overshadowing Cox who best consummated what dramatic actors always strive for: true moments on stage.
Profiles founder and “In a Dark Dark House” director Joe Jahraus made an intrepid decision casting Allison Torem as the youthful and naïve subplot. As a real-life junior in high school, this play serves as her professional debut and launching pad into the world of Chicago theater.
In verdict, the choice wielded a double-edged sword. Torem didn’t underwhelmingly stick out like a sore thumb but also didn’t hauntingly command her role like veterans do. Despite some questionable casting and necessary character honing, the play in sum tactfully tackles a valiant subject with candor and pensive storytelling.