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Wrecks by Neil LaBute – with Ed Harris – Los Angeles Theater Review  

 

LOVE SONGS PURE AND SIMPLE – AND RADICAL 

 

picture - WrecksTheater Review 

by Harvey Perr 

published February 14, 2010 

 

Wrecks 

now playing in Los Angeles at the Geffen Playhouse

through March 7

 

Sometimes, the truest things happen when we least expect them. We may even turn away and, a moment later, look back and wonder if we really saw what we think we saw, if we really heard what we thought we heard. It is hard to talk about Neil LaBute’s Wrecks without revealing its secrets, but we must not reveal them and, instead, try to resurrect the many quiet and honest moments that lead up to its revelations. They are so deceptively simple that they, too, could be easily overlooked. But putting them together, those moments become privileged indeed. Indeed. One of those words Edward Carr, the hero of LaBute’s play, says we never use but which he finds himself using just the same. Indeed.

 

We are in a funeral parlor when we enter the theater. Three crosses are illuminated. A casket made of sturdy polished oak and festooned with flowers can be seen. Piped-in music can be heard. It’s Nat King Cole singing the kind of cheap music that’s never lost its potency because they are so intrinsically bound up with lovers of a certain generation: “Stardust” and “For All We Know.” They have an emotional resonance that always brings up in an audience nostalgic memories of its own. And in walks Mr. Carr, a car salesman from Illinois, whose wife has just died, and he caressingly fingers the casket and listens in the next room to his own voice delivering a eulogy, so that, when he speaks to us, it is really the thoughts in his head we are listening to. That may sound a bit pretentious, as stage devices go, but Ed Harris, who plays Ed Carr, is so plain-spoken, so much an everyman, that we give ourselves up to him without question. Surely we have all roamed around, our heads full of unexpressed thoughts, imagining we’re conveying those thoughts to someone near at hand, someone we don’t know, someone to whom those thoughts have no meaning and is, therefore, in that moment, our most intimate connection. Funny the things we tell. And the things we don’t tell.

 

He smokes a lot and he promises that when he finishes the pack in his pocket, he’ll stop talking and go away. He hates the cigarettes, he knows their evils, but he also loves them, as smokers often do, and it even surprises him that his wife and not him has died of cancer, although one of the secrets he confesses is that he only has eight months to live himself. Not a big secret, but you do get the feeling that he hasn’t told anyone else. You like this guy. He’d be a good friend to have. Of course, you have to remember that, if you really were his friend, he probably wouldn’t be telling you the things he’s telling you. Funny the things playwrights come up with.

 

By the time his big secret is revealed, we are convinced that the man talking to us is on close terms with the mysteries of love, that he has experienced real love, and so the radicalism of his revelation is at the heart of that love. It may be that we are really looking into the darkness that a man can discover and live with, but it remains what he says it is: love. Ed Harris tells us up front that he’s no poet, but, when he finally leaves us, the most extraordinary poetry has poured out of him as if, in his taciturn way, he is a fountain. It is a great performance. And LaBute, who’s always had an ear for the vernacular, has slowly but steadily gained compassion and wisdom. This is a beautiful play.

 

And, when it ends, we hear Nat King Cole singing “When I Fall in Love.” When I fall in love/It will be forever. Some things are always true, and, sometimes, they are particularly true.

 

harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com

 

 
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