Strange bedfellows

Playwright Neil LaBute keeps company with the movies

Ambiguity, the caprice of fate, raising questions you can't answer--this is the toxic fuel that keeps the engine of live theatrical drama stoked. LaBute doesn't plan to make "cross-pollination"--what he terms the application of theatrical ideas to film--his sole career endeavor. A play of his called Bash, which was nominated for several critics' awards during its recent Los Angeles run, is about to be restaged Off-Broadway as a benefit for several women's and gay men's organizations.

But even with Hollywood studio confidence squarely behind his directing skills, LaBute says he and his wife might someday relocate to London, where he studied playwrighting on a fellowship at the Royal Court Theatre. "I discovered humility there," the playwright says, traces of awe still in his voice. "They were great, I was small."

"Londoners go to the theater the way Americans go to the movies," LaBute claims. "Both as a playwright and an audience member, it would be thrilling for me to live in a place where people come home from work, relax a while, then head out to a play. There's such a love of language in that environment."

Though his affair with cinema will provide him illicit thrills as long as it lasts, LaBute insists he will never abandon the stage.

"The British playwright Howard Barker has my favorite defense of theater: 'It is because I say it is.' This box I'm sitting in isn't a box, it's a plane, because I say it is. Ultimately, that's what the stage is about--faith, an intimate trust between audience and actor."

In the Company of Men opens at the Inwood August 15.

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