In the Company of Men at Profiles Theatre | Theater review

Profiles' patron saint Neil LaBute revises his 1997 screenwriting debut for the stage, with results more nuanced than much of his more recent work.
 (Photograph: Michael Brosilow)
Photograph: Michael BrosilowJordan Brown, Jessica Honor Carleton and Brennan Roche in In the Company of Men at Profiles Theatre
 (Photograph: Michael Brosilow)
Photograph: Michael BrosilowJordan Brown and Brennan Roche in In the Company of Men at Profiles Theatre
 (Photograph: Michael Brosilow)
Photograph: Michael BrosilowBrennan Roche and Jessica Honor Carleton in In the Company of Men at Profiles Theatre
 (Photograph: Michael Brosilow)
Photograph: Michael BrosilowJordan Brown in In the Company of Men at Profiles Theatre

If Neil LaBute's latter-day works merit criticism for anything, it isn't solely the eyebrow raising gender commentary that launched and, arguably, sustained his career for past 20-odd years—it's misguided righteousness. Bobby, the diatribe-prone slob of an anti-hero in the author's recent In a Forest, Dark and Deep, gave the eerie impression that he was simply a mouthpiece for the playwright himself. Depictions of misogyny aren't in and of themselves misogynistic, but when empathetic depictions of characters become too lopsided, it's hard to shake the feeling that the creator is just airing grievances.

Not so with In the Company of Men, LaBute's 1997 film debut, which he's newly revised for the stage at Profiles Theatre. The 20-something corporate bros at its center are just as heinous and entitled as any in the provocateur's canon, but there's something bigger and more objective at play here. LaBute's main target is the false equivalency perceived by the broken-hearted between pain felt and pain intended, a concept explored in Rick Snyder's level and often bitingly funny production.

Chad (Jordan Brown, giving a virtuosic comic douchebag performance) and Howard (Brennan Roche), two young and recently scorned power players at the same company, set out to turn the tables on their perceived string of misfortune by targeting an innocent bystander. When their chosen victim, deaf executive assistant Christine (Jessica Honor Carleton), becomes a legitimate object of affection, LaBute's black comedy evolves into a nuanced satire of misrepresentations of strength and the privileged class. Snyder could lose the intrusive sound cues dropped in from the feature film, but his 1990s-influenced production adds an additional layer of generational criticism.

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