Neil LaBute Trashes Theater Critic Who Trashed His New Play

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by Matt Singer
June 12, 2013 5:33 PM
3 Comments
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Writer/director Neil LaBute has a new Off-Broadway production entitled "Reasons to Be Happy," a sequel to his 2008 show "reasons to be pretty." On the whole, it's gotten some pretty good reviews, including a very favorable notice from Alec Baldwin's favorite theater critic, The New York Times' Ben Brantley, who called the show "the most winning romantic comedy of the summer" with a "dynamite cast." "Reasons to Be Happy" has already been extended through the end of June.

But that is not reason enough to be happy, it seems. Because amongst the positive reviews is a negative one from Time Out New York's David Cote. And it is a negative one. Here is its introduction:

"If Neil LaBute were to teach a course on playwriting, I bet his lesson plan would look something like this: 'Week 1: Dumbing down characters to pad out dialogue and pump up conflict.' 'Week 2: Stringing together two-person scenes, no matter how monotonous it gets.' 'Week 3: Embracing flat, shallow protagonists whose poor life choices are both predictable and banal.' And finally, 'Week 12: Blasting tracks by Nirvana during changes to simulate tension and edginess.' Luckily, there is no Professor LaBute, so we're not overrun with relationship clunkers such as 'Reasons to Be Happy.'"

Cote also suggests that LaBute title his next play "Reasons to Be Silent" -- so I'm going to guess he wasn't a fan. And LaBute, understandably, wasn't a fan of Cote's review. So he left a note for Cote in the comments below the article:

"david: actually i have taught writing courses at various universities and workshops and my lesson plan invariably begins by having students read the collected works of George Steiner, who was clever enough to remind us that 'a critic casts a eunuch's shadow.' some shadows, of course, are more portly than others but their effect on mankind is basically the same. brief and passing. keep enjoying the free tickets while they last.
nl"

Talk about hitting below the belt. 

Cote and LaBute have sparred in the comments' sections of the critic's articles about the playwright before. Still, it does make me chuckle at the headline of Brantley's review: "Same Couples, Reshuffled by a Mellowing Playwright." Mellowing!

Read more of "Review: Reasons to Be Happy."

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More: Neil LaBute, Critics Versus Filmmakers

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3 Comments

  • mike | June 27, 2013 1:36 AMReply

    Reasons to Be Happy is a terrible play, the worst LaBute has ever written, and his lacerating response to Cote suggests, on some level, he knows how bad it is, too.

  • Jordan | June 13, 2013 11:09 AMReply

    Interesting framework for a critic/artist battle, almost a case study for future ones. Plus, I got a couple good chuckles from this... thanks Matt.

  • Michael R. | June 12, 2013 8:06 PMReply

    Normally, it's bad form for artists to publicly attack your critics (See: Vincent Gallo), but Neil LaBute seems to almost elevate it to its own art form.

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