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BASH (latterday plays)

a Tragedy
CATEGORY : DRAMA
by Neil Labute

COMPANY : Onstage Atlanta, Inc. [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Onstage Atlanta, Inc. (Decatur) [WEBSITE]
ID# 2253

SHOWING : April 20, 2007 - May 06, 2007

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

From the sordid mind of Neil LaBute, writer of The Shape of Things and In the Company of Men, comes this lurid trilogy of modern day horror stories from the darkest side of human nature. seemingly earnest all-American good-hearted people making confessions in the dark lead to startling and unnerving revelations about the potential for lust, ambition, and hatred in all of us. Seductive story-telling that leaves you on the edge of our seat as you stomach turns waiting to find out "what happens next?".

A jaw dropper not to be missed.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director KW Barnette
Stage Manager Amy McGuire
Costume Designer Brian Porter
Young Woman Barbara Cole Uterhardt
Sue Julie Gibbs
Young Man Matt Hamner
John John Markowski
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Fascinating at it's best
by MuzicKal
Monday, May 7, 2007
4.0
Other reviewers have said it all and very well. It is nice to see Onstage Atlanta come back with such an enthralling piece of work. The only thing that I can add, is the way the actors were committed to their roles. You really believed what they ere doing, and you soon lost yourself in this play. Bravo to a great cast and director. Matt Hamner gave a very real performance. It is a shame that they could not extend this play for everyone to see. My only down point was that the lighting, though appropriate, was too dim at times. This is a minor thing. Again, very well done. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
The Tie the Binds
by Mama Alma
Saturday, May 5, 2007
5.0
Brad Rudy said it first, and better than I, but then, that's never stopped me before. Not since Bret Easton Ellis's "American Psycho" has a literary work so eloquently interwoven horror and everyday life. "BASH" is like a rock underfoot that turns to reveal things squirming across its underbelly. As you stare, revulsed (and a little fascinated), it whups you upside the head.

Matt Hamner is engaging in Iphigenia in Orem, with a sweetness reminiscent of a young Robin Williams. He tugs at our heartstrings describing how God supported him through the death of his daughter. Soon, though, his confession of complicity in her death becomes not a penance, but an attempt to excuse the inexcusable, and I found I wanted to put my fist through his face.

After that sequence, the hormonal rush of the young couple in Gaggle of Saints was a relief. John Markowski and Julie Gibbs as John and Sue are full of themselves and each other, out on the town in their faith's equivalent of a Spring Fling or Prom, all gussied up in tuxes and floaty dresses. Then John pricks his finger on Sue's corsage, and everyone forgets to breathe as Sue admits that the sight of John's blood, bright against the white of his shirt, excites her.

Gaggle turns out to be the most provocatively violent of the three pieces in "BASH," and John Markowski, with his driving energy, does not disappoint. He walks a razor's edge between religious zealot and confused adolescent, even suggesting at the end, while professing his love for Sue, that he might be, just the tiniest bit, confused about his own sexuality. I continue to be impressed with this young man.

Of special note, too, is the lighting design of Anthony Owen. Quietly understated in Iphigenia, modulating from cozy amber to interrogation white, Gaggle is all clean lines: the prom suggested in "snapshot shutters," Sue and John's separation with a "split screen." When Sue retires for a nap, Owen shrouds her in darkness, except when she "lights up" to whisper how excited she was by the blood. Fearlessly, Owen casts John's face in stark troglodyte shadow, suggesting the animalistic adventure to come.

As shocking as the first two acts of violence are, their impact is cleverly mitigated by juxtaposing images of sleep. Even at its most graphic and violent (John's description of the attack in the park), Labute swings us back to the quiet of Sue's hotel bedroom, where she murmurs about the blood.

Third acts are usually about resolution, and in Medea Redux Barbara Cole Uterhardt appears to be giving testimony against a teacher who molested her in her early teens. Uterhardt's character, though, freely admits enjoying her teacher's attentions. Even after he abandons her, pregnant, she glories in her beautiful son. Yet her narration of love and affection is told against the backdrop of her first sexual encounter, when, trapped against the glass of an underground aquarium, she watched a hammerhead shark swim slowly back and forth. The image of this young girl, caught between two predators, has the same kind of breath stealing effect as Sue whispering about the blood.

Uterhardt is an actress confident enough to take her time with a role, to let the audience see the character think. We talk sometimes of a performance being pitch-perfect, but Barbara also plays the rests, painting with negative space, the sound of snow falling on snow. I was so sure I knew where she and Labute were going . . . and I was so wrong.

The Woman asks a question at the end of "BASH." It's the question she imagines her lover asked, at the end, and it echoes long after we've left the theater, like the sound of a tree falling in winter, cracking under the weight of all that snow. It will chill you. It will haunt you. It will not be ignored.
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my two cents
by EricMc
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
5.0
I just had to add to the praise being heaped on this show.

Expertly directed, beautifully designed, and profoundly well-acted. It was a delight to see a play executed with such surgical precision. Bravo to OnStage for such a bold choice.

Despite the dark and unpleasant subject matter, despite the fact that it was 70 degrees and gorgeous outside on that Sunday night, my friend and I had a very, very enjoyable evening at the theater. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
A Huge Improvement for OSA
by mapobeancake
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
5.0
I've attended OSA performances off and on for the past couple of years and pretty much gave up on the theatre after seeing some truly sub-par productions over the past year from Victor/Victoria to Greater Tuna. After witnessing the insult to paying customers that was Greater Tuna, I completely stopped attending shows at what used to be a pretty good theatre.
Two reasons brought me back this time however. First I had heard that there was new management at the theatre which I was thrilled to hear about, but I am also a huge Neil LaBute fan, and I wanted to see what OSA was planning on doing with a show so dark and out of their comfort zone.
I was more than pleasantly surprised to discover upon arrival that there were actually people there to welcome and greet me (something I have never experienced at that theatre and have often complained about). Also the lobby was clean, well lit, and very welcoming. The bathrooms were clean! There was coffee and places to sit down! I couldn't believe it!
Then the biggest surprise of all was that the show was tremendous and shocking and just very well done. The level of professionalism that was brought to the production was just miles ahead of any of the crap I have seen there in the past. The smaller theatre space (now called StudioStage instead of that bizarre chemical equation O2 name it had before) was painted all black and had the feel of a true black box theatre space, which lent itself well to the dark psychology of the show.
The music selection, the lighting, the directing were all so subtle and chilling you really had no idea what to expect next. Each monologue was well paced and the actors provided just the right arc to transform from funny charming individuals into cold blooded killers with no remorse for what they did. Then they took you right out of it and had you laughing with them again, making the audience oddly sympathetic with people who have committed some of the most horrendous crimes imaginable. Just very well acting and directed overall.

I can only hope that with this new team the professionalism will continue into their future shows. If the productions are half as well done as BASH, then it will still be a huge step above what I've seen in the past at OSA.

Kudos to the amazing cast of this show. Well done. As I noticed in the other reviews, there was a very small audience when I attended. It is truly a pity, because this is a show for anyone who appreciates riveting intimate raw theatre without bombast and spectacle. The words and mood do all the work here.
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Wow, wow, double wow
by theatrepal
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
5.0
It is amazing to me that a show with such a low # of audience members can already have reviews on this site...but I am glad. Like a previous reviewer, this is also my first time finally putting a review on this site...although I have typed many reviews in the past, they never seem to get through my own computer. But, that all changes now. I hope I don't give anything away in my first review but let me lead off with the publicity tag line for this production: I HAVE A CONFESSION TO MAKE! Alright, now you have an idea about the show's "plot" and I won't say much more on that subject.

This show was absolutely incredible! I don't know what I expected and maybe my expectations were low since I was going to the small space in a community theatre. But this is nowhere near community theatre work, people!

Matt Hamner opens the show with a smile and a laugh and a story that makes you smile and laugh. Then out of nothing you find out an amazing fact and you lean in a little bit because you think you heard incorrectly. But, no. You heard right. WOW. So, now you lean in closer because you didn't see that coming so you don't want to miss a thing now. I felt like I really was in the room with this guy and we were new friends. Matt's ability to just tell the story with meaning and emotion and truth was so captivating that it is hard to believe I found myself looking at other audience members to see if they were also smiling along with me (even after the 1st big WOW). Again, he is natural and I almost believe that is really him...I hope not , though.

Julie Gibbs (never seen her before...so cute) and John Markowski (seen him lots at OnStage and SDP and always entertained) have the most amazing chemistry. And they never speak to each other. That sounds like it would be hard to do. But apparently not with these two. Julie Gibbs as Sue is remarkably young and naive but (as Dedalus points out) there is something she is hiding...what is her secret confession? I don't think we really find that out. But you can see it in her eyes. I love that! John Markowski as... John (really) is just plain scary. He is so in the moment at every turn that you are feeling like you are right there with him. My heart started pounding and it was so quiet in that audience during his "confession" that I am sure they all heard my heart beating. It was all in the look in his eyes. So real, so now, so very very scary. They get a WOW.

The last piece is hard to describe. You go out for intermission and you come back with a little bit of wine in you and a little bit of anticipation as to what you will hear now!
I have seen Barbara Cole Uterhardt many times and so this was where I was expecting a lot. This is the reason I saw the show, really. Always incredible and (as a young "character actor") she is always different...think of her as Atlanta's very own Cate Blanchett. Just a chameleon. She directs A LOT now, which is why we seem to never see her. But, I digress...
So, the lights go down and the lights come up.. you are a little out of it and so is the young woman who now sits before you. She is the first person you believe has a confession to make from the very beginning, but she is going to "lead up to it," as she tells you, so sit back and, um, relax?
My friend said afterwards "I'll think about it overnight, but right now I think that was the best performance I have seen in this city." I couldn't agree, but anyone who saw Barbara in IVANOV years ago would agree with me. That was it! Oops, I digress again...
She then takes you on a 15 year journey from teen to adult, all the while letting you in on intimate details, giggling a little, blushing a lot, smiling a bunch, and (only once) showing you what is to come. She turns on a dime but you are totally on her side and you accept everything she is telling you. Since this is the 3rd piece you will find yourself waiting for the "confession" in every paragraph and you keep thinking "geez, this is it" but it isn't. You think it will never come and then she blanks out... I mean, really. You see her grow numb right in front of your eyes. And she tells you. It is sickening, not so much what she says (it all happens so fast) but how she says it (when I saw it, one person it the audience actually shouted "oh god"!!!!!--the exclamation points are to express my insanity that someone couldn't control this, but it is understandable, I suppose). I am not as literate or well typed as Dedalus so I could only steal from him to further describe this performance. However, I don't want to do that. So let me just end with DOUBLE WOW.

The lights and sound and set (or lack there of) must also get a nod. Perfect for this jaw-dropping, heart-pounding, finger tingling show.

Like the others who have gone before, I must say that this show is a must see. Only 6 more performances left. Trust me, you will regret it if you do not see this show! [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Spooky, Unsettling, Brilliant BASH
by Catrarat
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
5.0

I always read the reviews posted on this site and never take the time to actually register and give my opinion of a show. However, after seeing the production of BASH at Onstage Atlanta this past weekend I felt compelled to let everyone know what a truly amazing night of theatre I was privy to in hopes that more people will take the time to check it out.
I went into the show not really knowing much about it except for the graphic picture of a bloody drain that I found intriguing on the poster for the show (I'm a sucker for that kind of advertising I guess!). Regardless, I found the show to be stunningly staged on a blank stark black stage, relying on nothing more the crafty disturbing storytelling, creative blocking and some very haunting and unnerving lighting design.
The direction itself was seductive and disarming and although all of the characters had committed unbeliveable violent criminal acts, I found myself laughing with them, relating to them and even at the end of their confessions, I felt a sort of uncomfortable pity for them as well. I was not quite sure if they were victims or despicable human beings or both. A testement to the actors and director for not forcing an opinion down our throats! The production did not judge these people, it simply allowed them to speak, unleash and persude.
All four of the actors were outstanding and, as said in the other reviewer of this show, give some of the best performances I have seen in Atlanta all year. I would go as far to say this is one of the better shows I have seen in the Atlanta area in a few years. The show is simple, engaging, frightening, well directed and acted theatre that left me and my friend talking about it long after we left the theatre. Go see this show if you truly want the experience of superior well-executed live theatre. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Darkness and Light
by Dedalus
Monday, April 23, 2007
5.0
Neil Labute’s “Bash – Latterday Plays” comes at you like a bullet on crack, or, to use a more apt simile, like an Avenging Angel’s Sword of Eternal Pain. Really three one-act monologues, these plays look unflinchingly at the darkest corners of lives driven by sin, fervor, and darkness. It is the antidote to the holier-than-thou platitudes of those who use religion as the precarious perch to their moral high ground. And Onstage Atlanta has staged it with a near-perfection that showcases two of the best performances you’re likely to see this year.

The first play, “Iphigenia in Orem,” brings us “Young Man” (Matthew Hamner), a smarmy salesman in a strange hotel talking to a strange woman (played by us). He talks about business and gender roles and avoiding alcohol and being a Mormon and about the tragedy that struck his family. Slowly, we learn of his complicity in that tragedy, and the cold-blooded reason that, to his mind, justifies it.

Next (“Gaggle of Saints”), we see a young couple (John Markowski and Julie Gibbs), talking to us (but not to each other) about a trip with friends to a dance in NYC, about how they are in love and ready to embrace the future with the wide-eyed idealism and self-righteous fervor of the young. And of how this self-righteousness compels the young man to justify and commit an act of unspeakable outrage and horror.

Finally, in the soul-shredding climactic piece (“Medea Redux”), Barbara Cole-Uterhardt is pitch perfect as a young mother, supposedly making a confession in a police interview room. But is she victim or perpetrator? Even when we learn the details of the crime, her complicity in it, her justification for it, we’re still not sure.

The genius of these plays is that they suck us into sympathizing with with these brutal characters, and we even nod our heads at their deeds -- “Yes, I see why, if I were you I would have done the same” (or not). Especially on the heels of last week’s Virginia Tech tragedy, it convinces us that, yes, if these people can do this, anyone can. None of us are safe from our baser natures, none of us are safe from the baser natures of those we interact with and love with daily. This is the true horror of the play – not the brutality of what these plays describe, but the knowledge of our own complicity. An argument can (and should) be made that this is the first work of horror in which we are truly the monster.

That Labute couches these monologues in the ethos of his mormonism is only icing on the cake to skeptics like me, who grow increasingly uncomfortable with the growing religious paradigms that have been creeping into public discourse. This is the dark side of religion, the evil that good people can do when justified by faith, the betrayal that faith can bring to them. I may be reading too much into this because of my skeptic-tinted glasses, and, to be fair, it’s only the second play that states an overt religious justification for the crime. But I’m throwing this out there anyway, just to see if it sticks.

As to the performances, I may be admittedly prejudiced – I’ve known Barbara Cole-Uterhardt for some time, and worked with her and John Markowski last week on the “365 Plays” project. But I do believe they gave two of the strongest performaces I’ve seen this year. Barbara in particular is perfect in her portrayal of a young woman who describes the giddyness of first crushes, the joys of secrets, the disappointment of … well … disappointment, and the surprise at the lengths to which she can be driven by betrayal. As her story unwinds, we find ourselves totally with her, sympathetic to her experiences and shocked at the inevitable results. It’s a portrayal that will stay with me for a long, long time.

Mr. Markowski, as the young man in New York, also perfectly captures the joy that being with his girlfriend can bring, and the horror that being exposed to what one deems sinful can bring. At one point, he stands on a bench, just below a light, that casts his eyes in such deep shadow that is more an effect of his performace than of the light. It is absolutely chilling.

Mr. Hamner and Ms. Gibbs are every bit their match, but are a bit more limited by their less-showy roles. Even so, I liked Mr. Hamner’s cocky self-assurance (I’ve known people in the business world like him), and Ms. Gibbs is good at portraying the innocence required – it’s a credit to her that, though she doesn’t participate in the act described by her “boyfriend” (or even know about it), we believe she could have, in spite of her fresh-faced naivete.

Make no mistake, these plays will make you feel uncomfortable, and perhaps a little “unclean.” They are portraits of people who commit unspeakable acts, yet who can speak candidly and with grim humor about these acts. They are people who are especially good at self-justification, and, if you have a mindset that assures you that a religious nature somehow makes you “better” than a skeptic like me, you will probably be offended at the suggestion that that “lightness” has a very dark side.

But to anyone who has a taste for good theater and exceptional acting, this is a must-see. A more-than-once must-see.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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