Neil LaBute

Definition

Theater

  • (1963 - ) US playwright, screenwriter, and film director, whose work has earned him a reputation as "American theater's reigning misanthrope". LaBute was born to working-class parents in Detroit and attended Brigham Young University, where he converted to Mormonism at about the same time that he began to write and direct for the theater. He later returned to Brigham Young to premiere the play that would eventually make his name, In the Company of Men (1993), a very black comedy about two misogynistic businessmen who set out to seduce and destroy a deaf female co-worker. The 1997 film version, written and directed by LaBute, earned several major awards and launched his career in the cinema. The streak of violence and cruelty in Labute's work emerged still more clearly in bash: latterday plays (1999), a trilogy of short pieces each of which involves an apparently motiveless murder (in two cases, infanticide). Because the killers were all presented as devout clean-living Mormons, LaBute found himself 'disfellowshipped' by his Church.

    LaBute's gifts for acerbic dialogue and iconoclastic observation have subsequently been honed in such plays as The Mercy Seat (2002), in which a man considers taking advantage of the 9/11 attacks to abandon his family, This Is How It Goes (2005), and In a Dark Dark House (2007). Three of his better known plays form a loose trilogy exploring the modern obsession with physical appearances: The Shape of Things (2001), in which a woman manipulates a male admirer into undergoing cosmetic surgery as part of a college art project, Fat Pig (2004), aboutthe doomed affair between a successful man and an overweight woman, and reasons to be pretty (2008), a typically caustic comedy that became LaBute's first play to be seen on Broadway. His films as writer and director include Your Friends and Neighbours (1998), Nurse Betty (2000), and Lakeview Terrace (2008).

    You emerge from his plays either praising him for the metaphoric slap in the face or simply wishing you knew where he lived, so you can hunt down the bastard and deliver a literal slap of your own.
    David Amsden: New York magazine
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