Neil LaBute should thank his lucky stars for Fred Weller. In lesser hands (cough-Jason Patrick!-ahem), In a Dark Dark House could be an exercise in the pointless, overwrought, and predictable. The incisive, electric performance from Weller (and the other two cast members) acts as a bonafide defibrillator, creating palpable excitement and intrigue whenever the script gets thin.
Here's MCC's summary of the proceedings:
On the grounds of a private psychiatric facility, two family members find themselves brought face to face with each other's involvement in their traumatic past. In court-ordered rehab, Drew calls on his brother, Terry, to corroborate his story of abuse. Drew's request releases barely-hidden animosities between the two; is he using these repressed memories to save himself while smearing the name of his brother's friend and mentor? In Neil LaBute's powerful new play, these siblings must struggle to come to grips with their troubled legacy, both inside and outside their dark family home.I'm quite of two minds about the show. It's an interesting set-up, and explores the ceaselessly relevant and scary topic of how exactly human monsters are made. Also, it's an interesting sort of cousin of Blackbird, telling the male side of the complexities of abuse, as Blackbird more directly explored a comparable story in which the victim was a girl. However, the "twists and turns" are often predictable from the moment of initial set-up. The interesting topic is articulated in a way that's too foggy and vague, and I admit that I'm generally not a fan of LaBute's tone. It kind of makes me feel dirty and unpleasant, which is doubtless what he's going for, but it still leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
But on the other hand, this cast totally rocks, and succeeds at making a clunky play kind of riveting. Ron Livingston carefully navigates a character who is both a self-interested, corrupt lawyer and a softie, pussyfooting younger brother, making Drew layered enough to be both compelling and condemnable. Louisa Krause is fantastic, playing 16-year-old Jennifer (aka "Buddy") with a rare and realistic combination of tough sophistication and naiveté. And Fred Weller's performance is unbelievably smart and agile, maneuvering each twinkle of the character's shifting motives with ease and incredible specificity. Watching the three of them is a pleasure, and they completely succeeded in making me enjoy the production, despite disliking the play. I also have to credit Carolyn Cantor, who created a physicality in this production that brings the tension between the characters to astronomical levels.