by Stephen Bennett
Neil LaBute is one of the most prolific, challenging and provocative stage and screen writer/directors working today. His latest directorial effort, Death at a Funeral, will be released worldwide by Sony Pictures on April 16, and stars an ensemble cast including Danny Glover, Luke Wilson, and Chris Rock. In a 1999 piece about LaBute's work, John Lahr, theater critic for The New Yorker, called him "the best new playwright to emerge in the past decade." Lahr has returned to LaBute as his subject in more recent years, describing him as an artist who "does not trivialize darkness but treats it with proper awe."
LaBute's career launched in 1997 when he adapted his play In the Company of Men into a screenplay, which he then directed and produced. The movie was a winner at several film festivals, including Sundance, and won the NY Critics' Circle Award for Best First Feature. Some of his best-known plays include: Bash: Latter-Day Plays (2001), The Mercy Seat (2002), Fat Pig (2004), Some Girls (2006) and his Broadway debut Reasons to be Pretty (2009). His better known films include Nurse Betty (2000), Possession (2002), The Wicker Man (2006), and Lakeview Terrace (2008).
Nearly all of the ten feature and TV movies and eleven plays he has written and/or directed share characteristics that make each easily identifiable as his: an incessant desire to push boundaries and test the limits of taste and, decorum; and a profound fascination with the dark side of human nature, with the moral vapidity of contemporary men and women, and with the politics of sexual power and desire both sanctioned and transgressive.
LaBute has a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture and a deep interest in the theater, particularly the work of David Mamet, whose influence is unmistakable in LaBute's often profane dialogue. He has also demonstrated a fascination with plays from earlier periods, such as Wycherley's The Country Wife, which appears as a college production in his film Your Friends and Neighbors. This Restoration drama about a rake's feigning impotence in order to enjoy partners other than his wife, among other bawdy adventures, was controversial when it was written in 1675 and too sexually adventurous to be produced for many years once the libertine values of the late seventeenth century had faded. All of LaBute's ongoing fascinations, as well as more than a decade of exploring them in major and minor films and plays produced on and off Broadway in New York and London to significant acclaim, are evident in the new frame LaBute has written for CST's production of The Taming of the Shrew.
Explore The Taming of the Shrew and learn more about the production.