Review – In a Dark Dark House

You have only one week left to catch the Knife Edge Productions performance of Neil LaBute’s “In a Dark Dark House” at the A.R.T./New York Theatre at 53rd Street and 10th Avenue. Though it is a difficult subject, I recommend you get there to see it.

The script is consistent with Mr. LaBute’s reputation as a spelunker into the dark, cruel, manipulative hearts of men. Here it focuses on a pair of brothers Terry (Neil Holland) and Drew (David Beck). Mr. Holland plays the older brother with constantly coiled anger and a cold skeptical glare. As the younger of the pair Mr. Beck is needy and frightened and in serious trouble. Recent self destructive behavior (not unusual for Drew) has landed him in an institution for therapy with a real chance for more serious punishment to come. Drew suggests that if he can show that he was damaged as a child, he can find his out of his predicament.

It is not revealing too much that their shared childhood included dark incidents of domestic violence and cases of sexual abuse. He has asked Terry to corroborate the history to back up his potential exculpation. Terry is clearly rattled by the resurrection of past memories that he worked hard to shield his younger brother from. After some consideration he agrees to help his brother and we are off and running.

It would be unfair to reveal more here as Mr. LaBute artfully does in his script. It takes an unexpected turn in the second scene as we are introduced to the 15 year old overseer of a putt-putt golf course (played with effective impact by the excellent Krystal Tavarez) that surprisingly plays an important turn in the plot. Again, not going to spoil here, see the production.

Director Sam Helfrich has framed the work well and managed the reveals carefully. Technical credits are excellent effectively portraying the three outdoor scenes with minimal settings. The shallow stage forces the action very close to the audience.

Two quick side notes: this was my first time at this relatively new facility and it showed itself well, both in how it is designed and how it is operated. I also had the very good luck to be present for a talk back after the performance with the cast director and playwright. As Mr. LaBute noted in the discussion, though this story was made up by him, it addresses very real issues and I believe in a clear eyed if disturbing view.

It is presented by Knife Edge Productions, led by lead actor Neil Holland. We are lucky he recognized what a good fit this role would be for him and his company. Sign up to watch what this company does going forward and definitely see this production before it closes on December 21.

As always you can find more at http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes

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