Director Toby Schmitz’s production of Neil Labute’s This is How it Goes is fresh and audacious. It is designed to make his audience both uncomfortable and to entertain. This is How it Goes is blackly comic, playfully challenging the audience by removing the security of their ethical framework.
If Cole Porter’s song Anything Goes celebrated a new wave of liberalism, Labute suggests that, decades later, genuine liberalism and acceptance has failed to permeate beyond the surface of our society. In this play, Labute’s primary concerns are both the unpalatable, deep seated existence of racism and the uncertain nature of truth.
After giving up his life as a New York lawyer, The Man (Patrick Brammall) returns to his small Midwest town and meets up with old class mates, who are now married: track star, Cody (Wayne McDaniel) and cheer leader, Belinda (Rebecca Rocheford Davies). The Afro-American Cody is now a wealthy businessman but, unhappily, twelve years of marriage has not been what either Cody or Belinda envisaged.
The Man accepts the offer of a room above Belinda and Cody’s garage and takes the opportunity to insinuate his way into their relationship, further exposing the cracks.
Labute’s plays deal with contemporary subjects like race and body image. He likes to expose that which society prefers to suppress. In This is How it Goes Labute explores the tension between the acceptable behaviour in a cultivated and tolerant society and the things people may think, but not dare say. An inter-racial marriage may not be unusual in New York but it is still considered unusual in a small town. His tone remains light and mischievous while going for the jugular. Beneath the veneer of contemporary racial tolerance, racism remains hardwired in our psyche.
Manipulation is not only treated as a theme but is part of the play’s structure. The device of the “unreliable narrator” allows Labute to play around with the order in which the action unfolds. The unreliable narrator also provides the opportunity to explore the concept of differing versions of the truth, leaving it up to the audience to decide what, if anything, to believe.
Director Schmitz elicits strong performances from his cast. Patrick Brammall gives a wonderful, high energy, performance in the pivotal role as The Man. His artful charm counterpoints the nervous desperation of Rocheford Davies’ Belinda and the suitably stolid, humourlessness of McDaniel’s Cody. McDaniel’s stiff and imposing frame embodies the intractable resentment of his character.
Brigid Dighton’s simple set design, adorned with just a few cushions and chairs for props, reinforces the sense of storytelling and underscores the fabrication in the narrator’s rendition of the events.
Presented by Fishy Productions and Darlinghurst Theatre, This is How it Goes is a moral comedy that is simultaneously disquieting and thoroughly enjoyable.
Darlinghurst Theatre Company and Fishy Productions present
This Is How It Goes
by Neil LaBute
Venue: Darlinghurst Theatre Company | 19 Greenknowe Avenue Potts Point
Dates: Thursday 28 February - Saturday 22 March
Times: 8pm Tuesday to Saturday, 5pm Sundays
Tickets: Adult $30, Conc $25
Bookings: www.darlinghursttheatre.com or 02 8356 9987