Studio’s This is How It Goes

Here’s a disclaimer, and you can decide whether or not to take it into account when reading this review. I’m fond of Neil LaBute’s work, and have been since I first saw the movie version of In the Company of Men almost ten years ago. So when I tell you that I think the play is good and worth seeing, you can ponder whether or not I’m just predisposed to like it. After all, the Washington Post’s Peter Marks was less than generous to the material and not too impressed.

Personally I think it’s got enough interesting characters and behavior to maintain interest, even if Marks is right and the character’s motivations are slimly explained. I don’t disagree with him, I just happen to think it doesn’t really matter. People often make choices based on slim reasoning beyond immediate self-interest and I don’t think there’s any behavior in the play that necessarily needs further elaboration. Show me a character handing someone they have never met $100 and I need some explanation as to why they’d do such a thing. Show me a character stealing $1 off a countertop when they know there’s no chance of getting caught and you don’t need to explain it to me – you’ve just demonstrated to me that they’re kinda slimy. I don’t think I’m revealing anything too surprising if I tell you there’s some slimy represented in This is How It Goes.

This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs
The actors all do a good job and they make interesting choices on the way. Another disclaimer: Anne Bowles is a friend of a friend, so you can decide for yourself if you should trust my assessment of an actor’s skills if I’ve hoisted a beer with them. All three actors acquit themselves well with the material they’re called upon to portray, with all three doing slightly different heavy lifting. Bowles has to whipsaw around more than her costars, with scenes expecting her to portray awkward, angry, coquettish, reflective, reluctant and did I mention angry? Our unreliable source of information, Feldman’s unnamed character, alternately omits or fabricates things about himself and Greene’s Cody but it’s Bowles’ Belinda who’s called upon to portray contradictory behavior from one moment to the next. At one point she has to re-do something a mere ten seconds later when our unnamed narrator puts some very shocking and filthy words into her mouth. She does well with the challenge, showing Belinda’s emotional states well at any given moment without the advantage of continuity of behavior you’d have in a more linear work.

The really shining moments for the players come in the two back-to-back scenes showing different versions of the same event involving Belinda and Cody. They both do a fantastic job of managing to show a couple having moments of love, tenderness, bitterness, anger, and hate – a range that seems excessive if you’re one of the seven people on the planet who have never been in a relationship that’s in a death spiral. Maybe a trivial activity for an experienced actor, but I think it’s impressive they manage to do the same scene twice with two radically different arcs and be compelling and be convincing both times. Particularly impressive is how well Greene puts on a loving and concerned demeanor after being asked to be so cold, distant, and nasty in almost every other moment we see him.

Feldman’s challenges revolve around having to stop and start his interactions with the other actors and talk directly to us in the audience in between. He does a good job of having a one-sided interaction seem like it goes both ways, though perhaps that was aided by the one fellow in our audience who thought that maybe he should respond when Feldman faced us and asked a question that I would personally have taken as meta-rhetorical.

I had just one complaint about the play itself which I’ll try to mention obliquely, lest I give something away for you that you’d like to be surprised by. Our narrator has a bit of an explosion during his last explanation to the audience that reveals something about his motivations that I think was a completely unnecessary development. The earlier back and forth about what is and isn’t true about his motivations and beliefs serve the story and our interest well. I don’t see how this last bit does any of us any good – if anything, it overly simplifies the machinations that make things a little more revelatory and provides a kind of superfluous icing on the cake. I’d have been happier without it, I think.

If you’re open to works that don’t necessarily portray humans in the best light I’d recommend it. The run is currently scheduled to go through February 11th so you’ve just just under two weeks to go see it.

This is How It Goes at Studio Theater
1501 14th St, NW
Washington DC 20005


This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs

Well I used to say something in my profile about not quite being a “tinker, tailor, soldier, or spy” but Tom stole that for our about us page, so I guess I’ll have to find another way to express that I am a man of many interests.

Hmm, guess I just did.

My tastes run the gamut from sophomoric to Shakespeare and in my “professional” life I’ve sold things, served beer, written software, and carried heavy objects… sometimes at the same place. It’s that range of loves and activities that makes it so easy for me to love DC – we’ve got it all.


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