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LaBute New Theater Festival 2019

From 19 critic and 108 member reviews
Members say: Thought-provoking, Great acting, Edgy, Intelligent, Relevant

About the show

St. Louis's one-act festival returns to New York with a new lineup featuring three premier one-acts by Neil LaBute: "Unlikely Japan," "Great Negro Works of Art," and "The Fourth Reich." More…

In "Unlikely Japan" a young woman spots an old flame on television and vividly recounts how a single choice can alter the course of multiple lives.

"Great Negro Works of Art" follows a meeting between an under-celebrated artist and his gallery manager as they debate race, culture, and what is/what is not “art” today. 

"The Fourth Reich" focuses on a public speaker as he presents his unique views on modern history, thoughts about the future and ruminations on his favorite painter.


“An exhilarating trio of short plays by noted cultural provocateur Neil LaBute...Each is a well-crafted topical theatrical snapshot smoothly dramatizing contemporary United States themes. LaBute’s distinctive dark humor and sharp insights into the human condition are realized by his bitingly precise dialogue. Most crucially he has created enthralling showcases for actors to dazzle in...Three knockouts make for a thrilling event.” Full Review

Splash Magazines

“Captivating...All of LaBute’s one with at least the proposition of alternative facts...The remarkable thing about these plays is that LaBute is not asking us simply to do our research and compile the facts before weighing in on the external evidence of history. He is instead asking us to mine the direction of our own internal moral compass and, without any coaching or prompting, reject the very notion of anything as tragically destructive as evil or alternative facts.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Each of his new plays is absorbingly written and perfectly acted…In 'The Fourth Reich' we meet…a…guy who casually chats to us about why maybe Adolf Hitler really wasn't such a monster…In 'Great Negro Works of Art'…a white woman…and a…black man…meet after connecting on a dating app…'Unlikely Japan'…keeps us glued to its tale of a woman's guilt at having spurned the attentions of a man, the high school beau in whom she'd lost interest." Full Review

Off Off Online

“LaBute’s plays often attempt to shock—or at the very least agitate...Fans of LaBute will be happy to know that the latest offerings contain their share of unease, and they unsettle with needling provocations around politics, race, and personal relationships...The plays include simple but effective design...The minimalist approach is fitting for this trio of one-acts. LaBute has a knack for encapsulating big ideas in pocket-size plays.” Full Review


"'The Fourth Reich': Under John Pierson's direction, White's portrayal is quite warm and thoughtful, even flashing a bit of stand-up comedy showmanship on occasion...The program's third entry, 'Unlikely Japan,' is directed by LaBute and is decidedly more low-key than its predecessors...What connects the three pieces is how they all deal with the subjectivity of what we regard to be the truth, stemming from individual points of view." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"If LaBute intended to provoke, his circumspect treatment has undermined that intent...The final and, in my opinion, least successful work is 'Unlikely Japan'...As is often the case with LaBute, the women do not come off well; one is a bit dim and the other lacks compassion...In all three plays, LaBute seems to be holding back and showing a muted, less confrontational side. The actors in all three plays were first-rate." Full Review


“All three plays...are provocative and deal with hot topics...They are all calculated to sting, surprise and stir up the kind of feelings you might otherwise not care to acknowledge...‘Great Negro Works of Art’ is excellent...'The Fourth Reich' is under the playwright's direction. It's a chiller that may make your skin crawl...'Unlikely Japan:' It's the what-if kind of story that is given some heft by the compelling way that Crovatin takes us back to the teen romance." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

“A master class times three on how to create uneasy drama and intent...They each get a polished presentation that digs deep into the idea of truth-telling and fact checking...A compelling circle of earthen dirt to dig into, regardless of the dynamic...The writing highlights what LaBute does best, telling detailed and strange stories of attraction, bad behavior, and shame, forcing us to look at lies and truths through a lens that is warped.” Full Review

The New York Times

"'Great Negro Works of Art' is an ur-LaButian text, starting with a title that should inspire an anticipatory wince, but vague enough to make it difficult to pinpoint the issue...Mr. LaBute’s writing is as skillful as ever, but Tom and Jerri’s date spins into a predictable downward spiral...Mr. LaBute may be mellower, but that does not make him any more uplifting." Full Review

Front Row Center

“In this trio of plays...Everyone is pretty much unlikable...Each play is built around good intention, but...not enough to pave the road to a riveting piece of theatre...'‘The Fourth Reich:’...Not only was the text going nowhere, but the intended recipient was unknown...’Great Negro Works of Art’...Not a new idea but it could have been...’Unlikely Japan:’...Lacks gravitas and becomes a ho-hum...All in all a great set of intentions that fail to lift up off the page.” Full Review

Woman Around Town

“'The Fourth Reich:' White is pitch perfect...Pierson’s sense of timing and choice of even tone add chill to this effective piece...'Great Negro Works:' Writing is accomplished, its arc thoroughly realistic and relatable. Both Jones and Meaney are very fine...'Unlikely Japan:'I don’t believe it..Had the playwright given us a couple with a deeply wrenching past, distress and self examination might be viable. Under these circumstances they’re not. Crovatin is handicapped by the script." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"Suggests that LaBute wants to remind ultra-sensitive audiences that his plays do not represent his views, but rather illuminate the dark truths lurking within the dubious characters he fashions...Curiously enough, one can’t help but notice that much as the playwright strives to present what he sees as the truth within his characters, the two women he creates here are not as self-aware as the men, even though one of these guys advocates for Hitler." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"Offers neither fodder for the salacious nor the gut punch and unlikely poignance of his best work, it’s a timely affirmation that LaBute remains among our most vital and necessary observers of messy modern life. That timeliness extends to the subject matter of the new plays...'Unlikely Japan,' another one-character piece, ends the collection on a high note, reminding us that LaBute’s female characters can be as sharply drawn and as vexing as his guys." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"A provocative program, with two particularly strong works following a problematic opener...'Great Negro Works of Art,' is set in a museum...LaBute explores their differences as the two walk around observing paintings and verbally spar with increasing intensity...'Unlikely Japan' consists of a heartfelt monologue by the impressive Gia Crovatin...'The Fourth Reich' is difficult to swallow...LaBute’s efforts to make us look at Hitler in a different way are shallow, and even offensive." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“Ninety minutes of pure LaBute, a format that may not be in the playwright's best interest...In each of the plays featured here, one feels two steps ahead, fully aware of where the action is headed and impatient over the time it takes to get there...The best piece, ‘Unlikely Japan’...LaBute's admittedly strong direction -- explores the multiple layers of guilt and denial at the character's core, making Katie the most compelling character of the evening...This is a flat collection." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

“Three premier one-acts by...LaBute. The first one was ‘The Fourth Reich’...White does well...and Pierson’s direction is simple, yet effective...In ‘Great Negro Works of Art’...Both actors again do a fine job...The final play ‘Unlikely Japan’ is directed by LaBute...The psychology of truth and belief is different for everybody, but in LaBute’s world it always seems he sees the worst traits in people to be fodder for his writing. I find his work morose.” Full Review

Broadway & Me

"The first and final pieces are character studies in which one actor addresses the audience directly...These bookend reveries...are well performed by Eric Dean White and Gia Crovatin but they’re slight works. And, if I’m going to be honest, they’re annoying too, striking me as the kind of weaselly...excuses kids give when they don’t want to take responsibility for their own actions...Taken together, they add up to a declaration that truth is merely the property of whoever is telling a tale." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"All three offerings are by LaBute himself, and therefore, the enterprise feels a bit less exciting. It’s not uncommon for a famous writer to offer a bill of great short plays that he’s amassed over the years, but these three new plays seem decidedly underdeveloped...I found myself impatient attending three plays that would have been better served by a table read. Even famous writers need to bother with the rigors of fully developing their work." Full Review

Motherhood Later

“Three one-act plays by Neil LaBute...’The Fourth Reich,’ directed by John Pierson, is a one man monologue...Then followed by ‘Great Negro Works of Art’ also directed by John Pierson...’Unlikely Japan’ was directed by Neil LaBute himself...Unfortunately, I didn’t feel anything positive about the LaBute New Theater Festival. I don’t blame the actors. They got into the roles and were believable characters. It was just that their scripts didn’t have any real substance.” Full Review

Brilliant relevant theater, brilliantly acted and brilliantly directed. not to be missed.

See it if The performances are outstanding. Labute's ear for contemporary speech and psychology is breathtaking.

Don't see it if you are looking for light fare or melodrama or easy comedy.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Resonant, Thought-provoking

See it if you crave intellectual/social challenge- off mainstream and sometimes politically incorrect viewpoints reflecting efforts to fit into world

Don't see it if you prefer multi-actor, complex set and plot plays, comedies, or musicals to soliloquies

Edgy, Thought-provoking, Riveting, Great writing, Intelligent

See it if You would enjoy 3 short plays that shine a light of truth into some of the darkest, ugliest and scariest parts of ourselves.

Don't see it if You’re not willing to be challenged and probably first and foremost with a look in the mirror.

Also These plays made me squirm! All in different ways and for different re... Read more Read less

Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Ambitious

See it if "Great Negro Works of Art" is outstanding. LaBute at his best - love the dialogue. The other two were OK but not to his usual level IMHO.

Don't see it if you are triggered by Hitler, the Holocaust, race relations, gender issues, and mass shootings.

Clever, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great writing, Edgy

See it if You enjoy plays with intriguing insights. It brings disturbing thoughts to the forefront and gives voice to people's internal struggles.

Don't see it if You are not a fan of small theatres, taboo topics or one-act plays.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Thought-provoking

See it if you like short pieces that make you think.My favorite was Fourth Reich.Very timely.LaBute rarely lets me down.He did not disappoint!

Don't see it if you want a Mamet play or a light and fluffy musical.These 3 shows plays have a lot to say and they say it well.

Thought-provoking, Edgy, Ambitious, Great acting, Great writing

See it if Well acted and absorbing one-act plays. Always had you on the edge of being uncomfortable, but totally engaged.

Don't see it if You are easily offended. Doesn’t shy away from race or politics. Not a light night at the theater.

Ambitious, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if If you are a fan of Neil Labute writing which is always interesting and thought provoking and always attracts great actors.

Don't see it if If you do not like solo acts or two handers.

Intelligent, Provocative, Interesting

See it if you enjoy LaBute's sustained awkwardness, sketching out in few short minutes whole personalities, deeply flawed,annoying, always relate-able

Don't see it if you see through some of the dramatic devices, don't enjoy provocation that sometimes feels like it's there for provocation's sake alone.

Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Absorbing

See it if you are into relevant, thought-provoking plays that challenge your most basic assumptions. Be ready to feel uncomfortable and engaged.

Don't see it if you aren't ready to be exposed to unconventional and thought-provoking thinking.

Edgy, phenomenal actors, uncomfortable, entertaining

See it if You like Neil LaBute, you want to see top actors (working on major TV shows but with theater lives too), you enjoy one-acts.

Don't see it if You don't like LaBute's verbal style, you dislike short plays.

Also This is hard to score because it's three short one-acts. The Fourth Re... Read more Read less

Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Masterful, Thought-provoking

See it if Bold scripts: provoke thoughts on Hitler & making/unmaking of history, “blackness”/PC, gunshot/“modern mourning” process... 4 great actors!

Don't see it if Easily offended; not into political topics; expecting a flamboyant production; 2 of 3 plays are monologue-play;

Relevant, Profound, Intelligent, Great acting

See it if you enjoy satire. you enjoy dark humor. you appreciate thought provoking plays on ethics and moral. If you want to see great acting.

Don't see it if you are afraid of hot topics such as racism and get easily offended by satire

Absorbing, Edgy, Thought-provoking, Intense, Shocking

See it if YOu like thought provoking great drama that gets you almost angry. It is very shocking at times

Don't see it if YOu don't like being uncomfortable.

Entertaining, Great writing, Relevant

See it if you like political plays, plays about the current cultural moment. That's its strength. The second one act was my favorite.

Don't see it if you don't like analyses of our current culture.

Absorbing, Great acting, Edgy, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if You like LaBute plays and enjoy short plays with great acting.

Don't see it if You like plays with more full sets and longer plays.Are uncomfortable with material you don't agree with.

Absorbing, Great acting, Clever, Funny, Intelligent

See it if You enjoy fast paced, one act vignettes addressing contemporary issues in a thoughtful, deep way

Don't see it if You need action and fast pace, don’t enjoy reflective contemporary dialogue

Ambitious, Clever, Intelligent, Quirky, Relevant

See it if LaBute is a master of dialogue and the use of the precise word for the moment. It’s revealing theater but seldom gentle or uplifting.

Don't see it if If you fear topics that are too sensitive to discuss with strangers. Or don’t like that his bothersome characters are a lot like us.

Ambitious, Entertaining, Great acting, Epic, Intelligent

See it if you are willing to do the hard work to get below the surface of LaBute's work. My initial score was lower. Thinking made me raise it.

Don't see it if you dislike works where none of the characters are likeable and all are self absorbed.

Clever, Thought-provoking, Intelligent, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if You like character pieces that make you think.

Don't see it if You are bored by one-person plays (this has a cast of 4, but 2 of the three acts are solos).

Clever, Entertaining, Enchanting, Intelligent, Great acting

See it if You like good writing and interesting subjects and good acting.

Don't see it if You are sensitive about topics about the Holocaust.

Clever, Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent

See it if An exceptional trio of short plays which encourages lots of thought on the subjects.

Don't see it if If you prefer musicals or light dramas.

Brutes and truth

See it if Three short gut punches thrown by one of today's best. Nice cozy shoe box theater.

Don't see it if Hate small casts and a short running time.

Also Another treat from this brilliant, fertile mind. Eric Dean White is am... Read more Read less

Clever, Absorbing, Intelligent

See it if You like strong writing, performances, and one act plays. The second one was a highlight.

Don't see it if You don't like long monologues or are easily offended by discussions that involve the Holocaust, race, and shootings.

Also The first play moved slowly but the second and third were very engagin... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Great acting, Quirky, Relevant

See it if 3 very different plays - interesting, but not LaBute's best work. Good acting. Moves quickly.

Don't see it if Do not see if you desire a standard in depth show. Short plays cannot get into real character study. Just OK.