In the Company of Men
Chilling, in-your-face portrayal of misogyny at its worst
|Profiles Theatre presents|
|In the Company of Men|
Review by Lawrence Bommer
Tennessee Williams said it with the fervor of a victim recoiling from a bully: “Deliberate cruelty is the one unpardonable sin.” For Neil LaBute it’s the one chief plot. In this 1997 one-act comprising his 1997 screenplay and the original drama, Profiles Theatre confirms its mastery of LaBute’s bitter battles of the sexes. As in David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago, LaBute’s own expose Fat Pig, and the film “American Psycho,” In the Company of Men depicts male bonding as a race to the bottom.
In 90 chilling minutes, an aggressor Alpha male manages to fuel misogyny with misanthropy. Reeling from job insecurity and a supposed breakup with his girlfriend, 27-year-old corporate climber Chad (Jordan Brown, slippery as a campaign promise) dares his follower friend, college buddy and “nice guy” Howard (too-human Brennan Roche) to join him in cruelly humiliating a female colleague. It’s no worse, Chad sneers, than what women do to the slaves they call partners.
The unlucky but not random choice: their apparently vulnerable, pretty, deaf colleague Christine (hauntingly hurt Jessica Honor Carleton). Unspeakably predatory, Chad mocks her disability and her open-heartedness as he schemes to make their co-worker fall for both mischief makers. Then, they propose, she’ll get simultaneously dumped by each–which, Chad hopes, will make her commit suicide for bad measure. So they unleash an onslaught of lies, knowing that the only truth—the exposure of this diabolical deception—will break Christine like a sex toy.
Naturally, the course of true hate never does go smoothly. Real feelings about Christine complicate the conspiracy. They also set these overly confident plotters against each other. In time we discover the full depth of narcissistic Chad’s casual cruelty and sociopathic malice with its “thrill of victimizing.” Whether it destroys any possibility of love between any two of these three damaged souls is left uncertain by play’s end. That makes sense: In the Company of Men was meant for post-show discussions–between the sexes and all about love.
Though too loud with percussive outbursts punctuating the scenes, Rick Snyder’s kinetic staging crackles along with LaBute’s pulverizing, uglified dialogue. Carleton makes Christine’s sudden loss of innocence and trust as palpable and shocking as an earthquake. Brown’s smooth-faced duplicity comes straight from hell. Caught in the crossfire, Roche’s potentially decent Howard has his dark side to disclose, even after we think he’s wised up to this rotten “game.” An eight-member ensemble flesh out the company and environs, while Thad Hallstein’s modular, stream-lined set is just the neutral ground to make LaBute’s urban horror story all the starker.
LaBute’s brand of gutsy, in-your-face, confrontation-theater can quickly get under your skin and into your blood. Every time you see a LaBute drama – and this show is definitely a must-see – you have to wash your hands and maybe perform some kind of psychic exorcism, just to prove that you could never, never be the likes of Chad, Howard or Christine. Never…?
In the Company of Men continues through June 30th at The Main Stage, 4139 N. Broadway (map), with performances Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays 5pm and 8pm, Sundays 7pm. Tickets are $35-$40, and are available by phone (773-549-1815) or online through PrintTixUSA.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at ProfilesTheatre.org. (Running time: 90 minutes without intermission)
Photos by Michael Brosilow
Jordan Brown (Chad), Brennan Roche (Howard), Jessica Honor Carleton (Christine), Dennis Bisto, Alex Fisher, Kroydell Galima, Shelby Garrett, Poppy Golland, Sarah Herndon, Joseph W. Moore III, Laura Leonardo Ownby (ensemble)
behind the scenes
Rick Snyder (director), Thad Hallstein (set design), Mike May (lighting design), Jeffrey Levin (sound design, original music), Raquel Adorno (costumes), Kaylie Honkala (stage manager), Michael Brosilow (photos)