Off Broadway Theater Cuts Ties With Neil LaBute

Off Broadway Theater Cuts Ties With Neil LaBute


Neil LaBute at an MCC Theater event in 2016. He was playwright-in-residence at the company, which had long championed his work.

Walter McBride/WireImage, via Getty Images

Neil LaBute, a prominent American playwright and screenwriter best known for his portraits of misanthropic and misogynistic men (“In the Company of Men,” “Fat Pig”), has been abruptly cut off by one of New York’s leading nonprofit theaters.

MCC Theater, a prestigious Off Broadway company, announced Thursday that it was canceling an upcoming production of Mr. LaBute’s latest play and terminating his tenure as its playwright-in-residence, effective immediately. The theater offered no explanation for its action.

The action is a startling development in the 15-year relationship between the theater and the playwright: MCC has been a longtime champion of Mr. LaBute’s edgy work, which often raises uncomfortable questions about sex and power and leaves viewers debating whether Mr. LaBute was critiquing or reveling in the bad behavior of some of his protagonists.

Mr. LaBute, 54, is best known for “In the Company of Men,” a 1997 film about men’s cruel treatment of a deaf woman, as well as the play “Reasons to Be Pretty,” which was presented on Broadway in 2009 and was nominated for the Tony Award for best new play that year. Over the years, MCC has presented 10 plays by Mr. LaBute, including “Reasons to Be Pretty,” “Reasons to Be Happy,” “Some Girl(s),” “Fat Pig,” “The Mercy Seat” and, most recently, “All the Ways to Say I Love You.”

Neither the MCC leadership nor Mr. LaBute immediately responded to requests for comment. A spokesman for the theater said he had no comment beyond announcing the cancellation of the new play, “Reasons to Be Pretty Happy,” and the termination of the relationship.

“Reasons to Be Pretty Happy” was scheduled to be presented this summer; MCC Theater had announced the Tony nominee Leigh Silverman as the director, but she had already withdrawn from the production. The play, about an encounter between two couples who were once friendly, features the same characters as “Reasons to Be Happy” and “Reasons to Be Pretty.”

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