Splitsville for Neil LaBute and New York's MCC Theater?*
Neil LaBute has called New York's MCC Theater his creative home for close to seven years. But it now appears that their relationship -- one of the tightest in the off-Broadway community -- is headed for divorce court. Today, MCC said it has canceled its much-awaited production of LaBute's latest play, "The Break of Noon." On top of that, a representative for LaBute told The Times today that she is uncertain if he will remain the company's playwright-in-residence.
"The Break of Noon" was set to open the MCC's 2009-10 season after being bumped from its original spring 2009 slot. The drama tells the story of one man's religious epiphany after he survives an office shooting. A spokesman for MCC said that the play is finished but that the theater has decided to cancel its planned production for September. When asked why the theater has canceled the play, the spokesman only said, "We have no comment."
Reached by phone, LaBute said that "The Break of Noon" isn't finished yet and that he plans to write at least one more draft. He said his commitments to his most recent movie projects and the Broadway run of his drama "reasons to be pretty" have prevented him from completing the play.
LaBute's theatrical agent, Joyce Ketay, said that "The Break of Noon" will have its world premiere overseas in a production directed by Jo Bonney, though she declined to specify in which city or theater. LaBute has been produced numerous times in London, including at the Almeida Theater Company, the Bush Theatre and the Trafalgar Studios.
His agent also said that there is "uncertainty" as to whether LaBute will stay on as MCC's playwright-in-residence. "We don't know if he will continue in that role going forward."
The apparent split coincides with the recent Broadway closing of LaBute's "reasons to be pretty" on Broadway. The play, for which he received his first Tony nomination, was a critical success but it failed to find an audience, playing to only 30% capacity within a month of opening. The play, which was first produced in 2008 by MCC at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in the West Village, closed on Sunday, one week after it failed to win any prizes at the Tony Awards.
LaBute denied any rancor between him and MCC Theater. "It was a scheduling thing," he said, referring to the cancellation of "The Break of Noon." "Economically it's a tough go for a lot of theaters."
MCC has produced a play by LaBute every season since 2002. Their most recent collaborations are "In a Dark Dark House," "Some Girl(s)," "Fat Pig," "The Distance from Here" and "The Mercy Seat."
-- David Ng
(A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to LaBute's "In a Dark Dark House" as "In a Dark House.")
Photo: Neil LaBute (right), with Piper Perabo and Steven Pasquale. Credit: Gabriela Maj / Getty Images North America