The Break of Noon
In Neil LaBute's latest play, a survivor of horrible violence finds God.
Mon Nov 22 2010
Photograph: Joan Marcus
I'M A BELIEVER Duchovny, left, talks God with Peet.
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>2/5
Slow to accelerate Neil LaBute is not. His last MCC Theater production, reasons to be pretty, began with a woman screaming full throttle at her boyfriend for a casual remark about her looks. The Break of Noon opens with a ten-minute monologue delivered by TV star David Duchovny (in a ho-hum stage debut) as the only survivor of America's deadliest office shooting. Amid the carnage, Duchovny's John Smith claims that God appeared and singled him out for salvation. Now he has a mission in life: Do good and spread God's word.
Of course, in the cynical LaBute landscape this journey of John Smith (everyman? New World pioneer?) is not so much an exploration of faith as a demonstration of how religious conviction can transform one asshole into a slightly different sort of asshole. After his spiritual awakening, John's one-on-one encounters with six other people, including his ex-wife and her cousin (Amanda Peet doing double duty), and the daughter of a slain colleague (a scene-stealing Tracee Chimo), show that faith can be wielded as a weapon, notably in power struggles between the sexes.
LaBute's best work (pulverizing dramas like The Shape of Things and In the Company of Men) sears, but even under the steerage of Jo Bonney, who skillfully directed the playwright's Some Girl(s) and Fat Pig, this one rarely gets past simmer, until our protagonist's alarming closing monologue. Duchovny's minimalist approach to acting, while effective in charisma-heavy roles on The X-Files and Californication, mutes the potential magnitude of John's conversion. It's the enchanting Chimo and Peet who drive this production, while LaBute's engine runs on fumes.
Lucille Lortel Theatre. By Neil LaBute. Dir. Jo Bonney. With David Duchovny, Tracee Chimo, John Earl Jelks, Amanda Peet. 1hr 30mins. No intermission.