A Neil LaBute play is a genre unto itself, as illustrated by his new one, The Money Shot, an MCC production now deploying expletives at the Lucille Lortel Theater. Needless to say, the title relates to the range and depth of a particular sexual act, as La Bute one-ups the tradition forged by God of Carnage, Yasmina Reza's play: a two-couples-in-a-sitting room template that also featured projectile vomit.
In this case, the setting is a swank home nestled in the Hollywood Hills, and the couples, movie stars more into branding than art, compete for bragging rights. The hosts, Karen (Elizabeth Reaser) and Bev (Callie Thorne), an editor who is also an amateur wrestler, vie with their guests, Steve (Fred Weller) and Missy (Gia Crovatin), his younger blond wife. In a movie they are scheduled to shoot, Karen and Steve are asked to have onscreen sex, and they want to ponder the options over dinner.
Just watch as LaBute takes this foursome to places you cannot anticipate. In his signature work, like Fat Pig and Reasons to be Pretty, superficial values become the butt of satire. In The Money Shot, under Terry Kenney's fine direction, the characters come to blows, literally, a high stakes fight match. Where language fails to connect, the physical may be the only communication as LaBute skewers a culture that threatens to tweet itself into utter boredom.
At preview time, Neil LaBute attended performances guaging audience reaction. As to Fred Weller's perfectly timed upchuck, the playwright said it is a mechanism they have near the pool that he uses. He didn't want to go into too much detail much like a magician wouldn't give away his trick, but thankfully it did not come out of Mr. Weller's own body.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.