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THEATER REVIEW: ion's “bash: latter-day plays” explores ugly side of humanity

Greek myth meets contemporary American sensibility in the 1999 “bash: latter-day plays,” Neil LaBute’s trilogy of one-act pieces exploring the extremes to which people can be driven in response to fear, pain and religious conviction.

The trilogy plays through June 18 at ion theatre’s BLK BOX. Glenn Paris directs.

The characters are Mormon (LaBute became a Mormon in his student days at Brigham Young University and remained in the church until 2005), but their actions echo Greek tragedy, and in each piece someone has committed what most would consider an unpardonable sin.

In “Iphigenia in Orem” (a Salt Lake City suburb), a businessman (Brian Mackey) approaches a stranger in a bar. He feels the need to talk about the loss of his 5-month-old daughter two years before.

In “Medea Redux,” a woman (Rachael VanWormer) in a police interrogation room tries to explain the death of her 14-year-old son who, she tells us, was the offspring of seduction and subsequent abandonment by her seventh-grade teacher.

“A Gaggle of Saints” finds Sue (VanWormer) and John (Mackey), longtime sweethearts and now college students on holiday in New York City. While Sue sleeps off a bit too much partying, her ebullient, blond boyfriend and a few friends, on a midnight walk in Central Park, come across an aging gay man and calmly plan to rough him up.

Perhaps best known for his “In The Company Of Men” screenplay (in which two suits plot to humiliate a woman just for sport), LaBute specializes in the exploration of the base, dark side of humanity – and in the shocking, punch-to-the-gut ending.

In these monologues – and in the newer “Wrecks,” which may have the most shocking twist ending of all – LaBute’s characters speak from the heart, not the head. Their sentences often trail off, stop abruptly or switch topics in the middle. It’s not eloquence you get here; these are tortured people and their lines reflect that.

ion theatre presented “bash” a few years ago in another venue. This time around, the actors have matured, and each has an arsenal of small gestures, expressions, postural shifts to communicate their characters’ discomfort – but what you’ll hear is disquieting, even horrifying.

“I make trouble for a living,” LaBute has said. “I spend my working hours looking to pick a fight, to ruin somebody’s day at the park, or some nice couple’s marriage.”

Go prepared to confront some human demons. But go.

The details

“bash: latter-day plays” runs through June 18 at ion theatre’s BLKBOX, 3704 Sixth Ave.

Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; Saturday at 4 pm.

For tickets, call (619) 600-5020 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.