St. Louis's one-act festival returns to 59E59 with a new lineup including the New York premieres of 'Hate Crime' from Neil LaBute, 'Winter Break' by James Haigney, and 'Percentage America' by Carter W. Lewis. More…
In 'Hate Crime,' a man plots the murder of his fiancée with his lover. In 'Winter Break,' a politically charged brother ignites a firestorm over his sister’s choice to convert to Islam. In 'Percentage America,' a couple on a first date, hoodwinked by each other’s dating profile, parse a story on the local evening news for “alternative facts.”
“Superbly directed by John Pierson...Theatergoers who look forward to the annual festival will not disappointed...Each of the three pieces presents audiences with an opportunity to see engaging theater with an excellent cast...The creative team has done a top job...An outstanding opportunity for all those who enjoy fine theater." Full Review
"All smartly written, crisply staged, and delightfully performed...'Hate Crime'. LaBute skillfully dusts off this old film noir premise...Haigney’s engrossing 'Winter Break'. This culture clash includes funny jokes...and fierce debates...A divorcée and pharmacist...are on a first date in Lewis’ comical though somewhat convoluted 'Percentage America'...Pierson has staged all three works with thoughtfulness and strong pacing that realizes the dramatic and comedic aspects of each.” Full Review
“The energy seldom lags, and all three cherry-picked one acts are provocative, timely and adroitly crafted...‘Hate Crime’...The dynamic between coolly predatory leader and eager protégé is expertly mined for both laughs and chills...‘Winter Break’...The action stalls somewhat...When it’s cooking, though, Haigney’s intelligent script shows remarkable insight and compassion...‘Percentage America’...Lewis’s razor-sharp satire...The story speeds to its dark, and unexpectedly touching, conclusion." Full Review
“‘Hate Crime’…Far more a study of character and oblique commentary on contemporary mores than a piece that relies on plotting and conveniently tying up loose ends. ‘Winter Break’…The debate that rages feels entirely authentic and will provide food for thought for anyone with young adults in the family. ‘Percentage America’…A fresh and amusing look at a serious subject that, like the others in this Festival, will exercise theatre makers across the world over coming years.” Full Review
"It's not that LaBute's piece, 'Hate Crime' eschews sex and power...It's just that the playwright has nothing new to say about either of them...Fortunately, the actors, as well as the festival's director John Pierson, fare much better with the evening's other two entries...Both of these plays provide fresh takes on topical issues...What makes the evening worthwhile is the opportunity to see the well-constructed, thought-provoking, and original works by Mr. Haigney and by Mr. Lewis." Full Review
“The first and most compelling play is by LaBute...LaBute lets his language and its rhythms guide us along...’Winter Break’ is the overwritten story of a college student...'Percentage America' almost succeeds...These are able actors, but they are hindered in some cases by the scripts which make them work too hard; in other cases by Pierson’s direction which is unimaginative – the action is stilted and the actors’ shining moments are random and disconnected.” Full Review
“The current trio of offerings provide two very strong entries and one that isn’t. It’s the short-form champion’s own curtain-raiser that is the disappointment...’Hate Crime’...A serious malfunction that suggests Pierson hasn’t worked out the kinks with the author...’Winter Break’...Benefits from a forceful dose of realism...The dialogue is painfully real...’Percentage America’...A piece that’s different in tone and ambition...Satire set in contemporary, internet-influenced America.” Full Review
"While 'Hate Crime' features excellent acting and some compelling dialogue, it fails to reach the level of quality seen in LaBute's other works...Haigney wisely leaves 'Winter Break' ending open to interpretation, giving some fresh juice to a well-trodden topic...'Percentage America' is a timely work, echoing the sad state of affairs of 'fake news' and biased, untrustworthy reporting. All three actors maximize the power and humor of Lewis's script." Full Review
“’Hate Crime': The only reason for this modest exercise in, perhaps, social presumptions, is to watch Sickman inhabit his character. Facial expressions are priceless. Timing is impeccable. Even the way the actor holds himself is entirely, specifically credible...’Winter Break’: The situation is plausible, well written, and unnerving...’Percentage America’ wryly examines the elusive search for truth...This play deserves further exposure...Director is better with blocking than emotional shades.” Full Review
"The subtle brilliance of LaBute’s script, brought to life by these fine performances and John Pierson’s slick staging, is in making these men totally recognizable even in their monstrousness...Both of the other two one-acts on the bill are built around wonderful ideas, and both fail to play out entirely successfully...'Percentage America' starts with a compelling idea and falls short of blossoming...Halfway through, I was lost; I didn’t know what was happening anymore." Full Review
"Haigney’s 'Winter Break' stands head and shoulders above the other two...Haigney has done a superb job in depicting the alternative realities perceived by the three Khouris, and Schaschl, Dornfeld, and Sickmann are terrific at conveying their distinctively differing emotional states...LaBute’s 'Hate Crime', on the other hand, was disappointing...'Percentage America' by Carter W. Lewis, is based on a very clever series of conceits...But it doesn’t quite work." Full Review
“In past showcases featuring LaBute plays, his have usually been the most sharply honed. Not so in this one, which leads off with his mediocre ‘Hate Crime,’ about two anonymous gay men who are plotting a murder…More dramatically satisfying, and socially relevant, is James Haigney's ‘Winter Break,’ which deals with a situation one can actually imagine taking place in an American household…In ‘American Percentage,’ the potential…is strong but the treatment…isn't as funny as it seems to think it.” Full Review
"Unfortunately, not only has the number of plays diminished, but the quality has gone down as well. Not one of this year’s plays could be called a success...'Percentage America' is the most ambitious play, but unfortunately trips over its attempts at satire...It is disheartening to think that these are the three best plays they could find for this year’s festival. The acting could best be described as competent." Full Review
“The LaBute New Theater Festival consists of entries that...focus on high-concept premises and plot twists...'Hate Crime’ is ‘Double Indemnity’ with an all-male cast...’Winter Break’ consists of endless circular conversations...’Percentage America’...Consists of an unconvincing idea pushed to laborious extremes...An unimpressive lineup, with all three plays weighed down by thinly drawn characters and plots that don't really track." Full Review
See it if You are a serious fan of new, edgy drama. You love short plays that pack huge amounts of content into short periods of stage time.
Don't see it if You are looking for laughs. Not one of these plays is a comedy ! You don’t enjoy plays whose themes are painful to watch.
See it if you like short plays, well acted, that make you think.All 3 were really worth seeing.The last was my favorite.All were well written.
Don't see it if you don't like 1 act plays. I love them when they are tight and have something to say.All 3 of these did that. Go see 'em!
See it if The LaBute show the best of the three.Full of tension, manipulation and good acting. Second show, Winter Break very timely subject matter.
Don't see it if You don't like three unrelated one act plays.
See it if you are a Labute fan; some of the pieces better than others, but all well written and interesting; good dialogue and quirky plots.
Don't see it if you want comedy, PC subject matter, a uniting theme.
See it if Short plays with thought-provoking insights. At least 1 of the 3 will leave you with something to talk about. Intimate theater setting.
Don't see it if You are a perfectionist.
See it if Three satires with creative risk taking and something to say. 1. Gay relationships: 75. 2. Islamophobia: 80. 3. Fake news: 40.
Don't see it if All three dark comedies are intended to make you squeamish. The fake news play fell flat and made me cringe.
See it if Spencer Sickmann was wonderful. Thank goodness, because the writing was eh, and the direction was awful. 3 new works that needed guidance.
Don't see it if You don't want you under 2 hours to feel long. Don't like new works. Mind weak acting and poor direction.
See it if you really, really like one-act plays even when they offer no insights and wear out their welcome rapidly.
Don't see it if you don't like stale, repetitive, half-baked material with little saving grace.
See it if You're interested in seeing new works debut or you're really into one act collections.
Don't see it if You don't want to watch actors struggle through 3 poorly written and aimless new plays with no through-line or cohesion.
See it if Three well acted and well written short plays, all of which give some food for thought. My favorite was the second, Winter Break.
Don't see it if Discussions on homosexuality, religion and politics make you uncomfortable
See it if you want to see something new, edgy, different, well written and well acted
Don't see it if Are looking for a musical. I saw this tonight and loved it, but it is totally outside the box
See it if you want a quick paced, fun yet thought-provoking night out at the theatre
Don't see it if Never mind. Just go. Live performances are always better than staying home binging on Netflix.
See it if you want to be entertained by a talented group of actors performing three cleverly written short plays in a cozy venue.
Don't see it if you are not ready for something other than big budget Broadway musicals
See it if you love great theater written by emerging playwrights, performed by one our Nation's finest small professional theater Companies.
Don't see it if there is not a reason not to see it, you should support new works.
See it if you want to feel like you are practically inside three short and captivating plays. Impressive new talent. Last two plays were great!
Don't see it if you had a long day and think you might doze off... The theatre is so small that the actors will be able to see it!
See it if You like to see what's in the dramatic pipeline. Two of these are good enough in the hard-edged Labute tradition, one quite fresh in subject
Don't see it if & sensibility. Performed in repertory by a quartet of able actors in a very small space.
See it if you like one-acts dealing with topical events in such a way that you can be ensured to make wittier, savvier comments offstage afterwards.
Don't see it if you're someone who can comfortably say, "I've never seen a Neil LaBute play I haven't liked." I was that person and am that person no more.
See it if you are up for something different and entertaining. A fun night out! Talented cast and three absorbing short plays. Very entertaining!
Don't see it if you must have happy endings.
See it if in the mood for three very different vignettes — all well written, engaging and powerfully performed. Very timely and very good acting.
Don't see it if religion, homosexuality, swearing and political satire might offend you.
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