Theater review: 'Filthy Talk for Troubled Times' by City Garage
Beginning with that 1990 debut, LaBute has always courted controversy. But although “Filthy” now seems overwrought and a bit dated, it holds interest as the distant echo of a young artist finding his voice.
Director Frédérique Michel and production designer Charles Duncombe revisit LaBute's seldom-produced play in a bold albeit flawed production at City Garage's Bergamot Station space. The play's setting has been shifted from a topless bar to the aesthetic precincts of an art gallery –- a risky innovation obviously designed to point out the crass objectification of the female form.
Three nude women (Kye Kinder, Heather Leigh Pasternak and Vera Petrychenka), carrying hatboxes –- anachronistic artifacts of vanished conventions –- stalk through Duncombe's stark set like automata, ultimately freezing into a human triptych. The increasingly drunken male characters (Troy Dunn, David E. Frank, Dave Mack and Kenneth Rudnicki) banter salaciously and ogle the nude “art objects” like a wolf pack as two waitresses (Cynthia Mance and Katrina Nelson) recount sordid past sexual episodes.
Duncombe contributes additional material -– repetitive musings on such words as “art” and “object” -- that sometimes seems at odds with the play's vulgarity. But although the uneven cast doesn't always measure up to the production's demands, Duncombe's new text, coupled with Michel's ever-rigorous staging, heightens LaBute's sophomorically sensational work into a serious examination of semantics, sin and the human imperative for connection, however imperfect.
-- F. Kathleen Foley
“Filthy Talk for Troubled Times,” City Garage at Track 16 Gallery, Building C-1 at Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays. Ends Feb. 26. $25. (310) 319-9939. www.citygarage.org. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.
Photo: Heather Leigh Pasternak, Vera Petrychenka, Kye Kinder. Credit: Paul M. Rubenstein.