Racism, power and backhanded dealings are just the surface issues in the complex play This Is How It Goes by Neil LaBute.
LaBute is a compelling writer for both film and the stage, creating works that not only entertain, but also ask taboo questions and present uncomfortable situations. His work includes In the Company of Men, Your Friends & Neighbors, The Shape of Things, The Wicker Man (remake), Fat Pig and many more. The Theatre Within is presenting LaBute’s This Is How It Goes, an apt inclusion in a challenging inaugural season that also included another LaBute play, Bash, as well as The Laramie Project and Imagining Brad.
In This Is How It Goes, a Man (he remains nameless) runs into a woman he had a crush on in high school. Coincidentally, he needs a place to live and she and her husband are renting out their garage apartment. Once the Man enters Belinda’s and Cody’s life, their already precarious marriage becomes even more volatile. Cody, a black man, is living his life with a massive chip on his shoulder, and is verbally — maybe even physically — abusive towards Belinda, who is white. The Man seems harmless enough, but you soon find out that nothing is what it seems in this play.
Director Rod Isaac and three actors (plus one extra) tackle the show head-on, and use the building’s space to its fullest advantage.
Casey Thompson as Cody presents a complicated character. He exudes attitude and intelligence almost simultaneously, so you don’t quite know how to take him. But Thompson is the strongest character, and actor, of the three; he is completely immersed in Cody’s mind.
Chelsea Anderson as Belinda is a woman wound tight. She tries to placate her husband, but she knows it’s a useless effort. Anderson is on the edge almost the entire show; she knows her life is damaged, but can’t find her way out of it. While we see her dysfunction, we also sympathize with her; we want her to find a better relationship. And while we think the Man might be a better alternative, we soon find out that he is consumed with his own issues and questionable morals.
Ryan Powell as the Man comes off as a sweet, goofy guy both in his direct address to the audience and with the other characters. At first, this is a boon, but (not to give too much away) his later transformation seems out of character. He loses his believability through this jolting 180-degree turn.
After the show, audience members are invited to a talkback session with the actors and director. This Is How It Goes continues Aug. 8-10 at The Church Within, located at 1125 Spruce St. in Fountain Square. Tickets are $12 ($10 students and seniors). Call 317-850-4665 or go to www.thechurchwithin.org.