Friday, November 5, 2010

Break of Noon **

MCC's world premiere production of Neil Labute's latest play is now in previews at the Lucille Lortel. The role of John Smith, the sole survivor of an office slaughter, is a comfortable fit for David Duchovny -- perhaps too comfortable. Smith is convinced that he has been spared by divine intervention to spread God's word. His attempts to be a better person and a worthy vessel get a mixed reaction. After an opening monologue describing his view of the massacre, he has scenes with a media rights attorney (to negotiate a million dollar sale of a photograph of killer and victims that he has somehow managed to take), a smarmy TV talk show host, his ex-wife, his ex-wife's cousin (and ex-lover), a prostitute who is the daughter of one of the victims, and a detective who doubts his story. Amanda Peet has little to work with in the underwritten roles of sister and ex-wife. Tracee Chimo is luckier with two juicy parts -- the tv host and the prostitute. John Earl Jelks is effective both as lawyer and detective. The 90-minute play concludes with another monologue, this time in the form of a sermon, in which Smith gives an alternate version of the office slaughter. The final image is both surprising and ambiguous. When it was over, I was left in a state of puzzlement over what Labute was trying to achieve. Clearly he is against today's infotainment media, but what is his attitude toward faith and religion? This is not Labute at his best.

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