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Neil LaBute's "Filthy Talk For Troubled Times"
January 6—February 25, 2012
"Michel and Duncombe have... fully inhabited their new space with this production"—LA Stage Times
Cast: Troy Dunn, David E. Frank, Kye Kinder, Dave Mack, Cynthia Mance, Katrina Nelson, Heather Leigh Pasternak, Vera Petrychenka, Kenneth Rudnicki
"What marks this staging as different from the others is the brilliant and meticulous production by Artistic Director Frédérique Michel and the nude women's additional dialogue by Producing Director Charles A. Duncombe....Nothing is superfluous. This production is Dada or Surrealism, call it whatever you like. "Filthy Talk" takes a poke at the art world and its often decorative pretensions, and the world of male/female relations it presents is "Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus" on steroids—mega steroids. If what you are after is a short (75 minute) stunning and provocative production that leaves you asking questions as you leave, this is your ticket."
—Karen Weinstein, Culture Vulture
"Long mistaken as an anti-female misogynist, LaBute's understandable rage over the way men (and by extension, male dominated religion) hurt women (and themselves) by not acknowledging the valid differences between the genders is dramatically muscular, funny, as well as spot-on....It is fascinating to see how Michel's always avant-garde productions (normally featuring female and male nudity) mesh with LaBute's phallic fetishizing of male boorish behavior. It is very European, refreshingly free from middle-class moralizing that mars so much of American culture....This is an exciting production, beautifully mounted, and does justice to the author's intent."
—Dale Reynolds, Stage Happenings
"This ‘installation’ can be seen in different ways—as a Brechtian framing of the objectification of human beings that's already apparent in LaBut'e writing and/or as a sly satirical comment on the art world.....Michel and Duncombe demonstrate a refreshing eagerness to reflect LaBute's vision back on their own audience. If his characters were still in a topless bar, it would be far too easy for the people who are likely attend adventurous theater within an art gallery—and who are unlikely to enter a topless bar—to distance themselves....It's clear that Michel and Duncombe have finally fully inhabited their new space with this production. Now I'm looking forward to the variety of creative works that might result from this juxtaposition of theater and the visual arts."
—Don Shirley, LA Stage Times
"A strong directorial vision adds to a strong script...Neil LaBute's series of potent statements about how badly men think of women—and, as it turns out, how badly women behave toward men—is writing on the finer side about ourselves at our worst. The prose sounds rarefied until one hears exactly what we think of each other, as if cartoon bubbles floated over our heads, in the most profane words. Frédérique Michel's direction adds contrasting grace and beauty, paired with the glorious production design by Charles Duncombe—who provides "art talk" text in addition to LaBute's words."
—Dany Margolies, Backstage
"In a savvy move, company artistic director (and the play’s director) Frédérique Michel has switched the original setting for LaBute’s play about angry men and women from a topless bar in New York to restage the piece in a high-end art gallery. The men who were formerly chit-chatting over drinks as they longingly gazed at erotic dancers now find themselves at a pretentious art exhibit installation comprising of naked, fair-skinned women. Make that three gorgeous, slim, all-natural, lovely naked women with serious expressions on their Caucasian faces, clutching bright red hatboxes strategically placed to afford their nakedness a modicum of cover. Ingeniously, Michel has cracked LaBute’s play wide open by giving these perambulating and naked objects d’art speaking roles. The women utter abstract words, (these ‘speeches’ were newly written by Charles Duncombe), while several drunk male patrons of the play, and a couple of bitter waitresses working at the gallery, remain just as conflicted, angry and baffled as ever by the eternal mystery of the opposite members of their species. It’s an intriguing staging concept and wholly appropriate for the Bergamot Station location."
—Pauline Adamek, ArtsBeat LA
"Neil LaBute's first produced play, “Filthy Talk for Troubled Times,” presaged the “men-as-irredeemable-pigs” genre that LaBute has explored more fully in later works. Beginning with that 1990 debut, LaBute has always courted controversy....Director Frédérique Michel and production designer Charles Duncombe revisit LaBute's seldom-produced play in a bold...production at City Garage's Bergamot Station space. The play's setting has been shifted from a topless bar to the aesthetic precincts of an art gallery –- a risky innovation obviously designed to point out the crass objectification of the female form. Three nude women (Kye Kinder, Heather Leigh Pasternak and Vera Petrychenka), carrying hatboxes –- anachronistic artifacts of vanished conventions –- stalk through Duncombe's stark set like automata, ultimately freezing into a human triptych. The increasingly drunken male characters (Troy Dunn, David E. Frank, Dave Mack and Kenneth Rudnicki) banter salaciously and ogle the nude “art objects” like a wolf pack as two waitresses (Cynthia Mance and Katrina Nelson) recount sordid past sexual episodes.....Duncombe's new text, coupled with Michel's ever-rigorous staging, heightens LaBute's sophomorically sensational work into a serious examination of semantics, sin and the human imperative for connection..."
— F. Kathleen Foley, Los Angeles Times
"The lights go down and three beautiful, statuesque women slowly enter carrying blood red hat boxes in front of their completely naked bodies. That got your attention, didn't it?That's largely the point of City Garage's new staging of Neil LaBute's Filthy Talk for Troubled Times. In truth, the piece is a mash-up of a 20 year old LaBute script with a new setting and new interstitial text provided by City Garage's Frederique Michel and Charles Duncombe.The original 1989 script is set in a nudie bar "out near the airport" and it feels like an early dress rehearsal for LaBute's play-come-film In the Company of Men. The dialogue is vintage LaBute: men being men or men being misogynistic uncouth pigs ... depending on your point of view. As the men ogle, they expound on their personal philosophies of relationships, sex, race, and particularly vivid, and frightened, descriptions of female genitalia. Director Frederique Michel has replaced the strip club setting with an art exhibit - fitting given the play takes place in the Track 16 Gallery at Bergamot Station....Conceptually, it's a clever staging of the theory of the "Male Gaze." As a counterpoint to the drunken machismo, Director Michel offers the silent simplicity of the female form. As the men down plastic tumbler after plastic tumbler of free art opening wine, their tirades become darker and increasingly lewd - yet the statuesque women remain unfazed....Maybe it's fitting that by revealing the unflinching honesty of the naked female form, Frederique Michel has made Neil LaBute's men dramatically impotent."
—Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater KCRW.