Review: Filthy Talk for Troubled Times, Basic Mountain, Edinburgh

Published in Fest on August 15, 2015

Why revive Neil LaBute’s 1990 debut play? It’s a short, unpleasant, rarely-performed piece set in a strip club, where dumb, cruel men and a couple of waitresses banter, each breaking out to address the audience with tales supposed to be out-there in their honesty. Maybe they had bite 25 years ago; now they reek of cliché.

All the men are arseholes, with casually racist and homophobic attitudes thrown in for cheap shocks; the women victims and sex objects. They long for romance and a good guy, even if they are a bit sexually frank. But in a post-Sex and the City, post-Girls world, claims that women don’t have orgasms, guys won’t go down on girls, and all men are bastards, seem extremely dusty.

The setting also feels eye-roll worthy, handily allowing gorgeous American TV actresses — Zibby Allen and Erin Pineda — to parade around in suspenders and lacy, nip-revealing bras. The show even starts with a wholly gratuitous tits-out pole dance. Bang, I’m afraid, goes any argument that the production is critiquing the objectification of women. It luxuriates in the male gaze.

It’s a tight, well-wound staging – the performances are good, if better at the sassy straight-shooting of LaBute’s sharply crafted prose than the occasionally over-egged group scenes. Director Matthew Lillard— he of movie fame, star of Scream and Scooby-Doo — exhibits a sure hand.

But a snappy staging isn’t enough to rescue a work so dated and lacking in insight. Ultimately, Lillard finds absolutely no compelling reason to revive LaBute’s play.

Where next?