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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
ALL THE WAYS TO SAY I LOVE YOU
at MCC Theater

GUIDING LIGHT
By MATT WINDMAN

  Judith Light/ Ph: Joan Marcus

Looking back on my high school years, my guidance teacher was a nice middle-aged lady who helped me fill out my college applications. In Neil LaBute’s confessional hour-long monologue All the Ways I to Say I Love, former soap opera star Judith Light (who won two consecutive Tony Awards in recent years and now has a featured role on the acclaimed television series Transparent) plays a guidance counselor/English teacher who ends up doing a hell of lot more with Tommy, an adrift African American student in his second senior year, than just paperwork. 

On the surface, All the Ways I to Say I Love does not seem like an unusual work for LaBute, a prolific writer who is best known for bruising and disconcerting relationship dramas filled with acts of deception. For instance, in The Shape of Things, a pretty college girl unexpectedly takes romantic interest in a sweet dork and then reveals that it was all a ruse, breaking the boy’s heart and drawing fury from many audience members.  

Although Light’s character, Mrs. Johnson, cheats on her husband (who is also African American) and even ends up having the student's child (while keeping her husband in the dark about both the affair and the true paternity), All the Ways to Say I Love You is a relatively sympathetic character portrait. She opens up about the continuing weight of her anguish and regret throughout the years, which she describes as the equivalent of the baby’s weight. It's as if LaBute is trying to confront the common perception that his writing is misogynistic in nature. (For what it’s worth, I think his misanthropy lends itself to both sexes.)

Under the effective direction of Leigh Silverman (Broadway revival of Violet), Light gives a psychologically shaded and dramatically charged performance that keeps you drawn in from start to finish. That said, All the Ways to Say I Love You is a pretty slight offering on the part of Off-Broadway’s MCC Theater (which has produced numerous works by LaBute and is now celebrating its 30th anniversary), with a single performer, a super-short length and a tiny set. As a result, the solo drama comes off primarily as a star vehicle for Light. Couldn’t LaBute have added a second monologue with another actor? Why not allow an actor to play the student or the husband? Let's hear their sides of the story.

 


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