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Tampa Bay Scene story on This is How it Goes and Books (abridged

by Susanne Nielsen

Some years ago a film called The Shape of Things by author/playwrite Neil LaBute turned heads. His characters played mind games that kept viewers on edge, guessing until the very last moment. Slow moving but pushing towards a grand finale where all details fall into place, The Shape of Things shaped viewers as it did its unsuspecting protagonist.

Now Jobsite Theater, TBPAC’s resident theater company is bringing Neil LaBute’s This Is How It Goes to the Center’s Shimberg Playhouse in Tampa. Jobsite artistic associate Ami Sallee Corley chose and directs the play’s first southeastern run. Jobsite has been in residence at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center for some years now with plays that range from provocative to experimental. Coley has directed a number of them, some just like this one in need of a caution statement due to some adult language. Although it seems a regular occurrence with cutting edge contemporary theater, Corley says the plays chosen and performed by the Jobsite company so far have never quite pushed audiences over such an anticipated edge.

Corley likes to choose plays that pose questions rather than offer (easy) solutions. The director’s goal is to leave audiences in lively discussion and often divided over issues the story or characters pose. “You may go in liking or agreeing with one character and then coming out with a completely different point of view,” she comments on this current play.

Her own opinion of This Is How It Goes has changed from a first reading after which she saw the main focus on race, and decided not to pursue it, to a new approach when she unexpectedly reencountered this 2005 LaBute’s play again, and reconsidered its deeper premise.

It is, she says a play about “the subjectivity of truth.” What attracted Corley was that the author explores the topic through the complex views and relationships of three characters whose ideas and actions all become more plausible or more questionable in one way or another as the play progresses.

Corley brings us to a crucial moment of the story paraphrasing what she seems to know by heart as the main protagonist “in whose head the entire play takes place” explains that he would “do the righteous thing, …. tell her the truth, but …the truth is so … elusive; the minute you try to tell it, the words just slip away and you end up with this half remembered part of one side of the story.” The director makes her point: “You can never actually fully live in the truth unless you are actually in that moment.” All truth becomes subjective when that moment has passed. But coming to any conclusion will not be simple.

The audience has at least three options with the three very different characters, complicated by a narrator who claims from the onset of the play to be unreliable. What may seem like stereotypes in LaBute’s world come with a twist: the suburban couple, he’s black, she’s white, the narrator is a former classmate, a friend, or is he?

Says Corley “Within the literal plot of the story there are some shady areas where you are not quite sure what just took place. Each character has his or her own moment to reflect on his or her current situation.”

What does director Ami Corley hope for? “I think that inevitably people are going to associate with one character more than the other and people who come (to see the play) together may not take the same side.” This Is How It Goes, or does it? Find out January 25 through February 11th.

If you feel like a Friday or Saturday late-nighter – and no, this is not “college cramming 101” but rather after-the-fact entertainment, go see Jobsite’s 10 p.m. performances of “All The Great Books (abridged)”. From January 12 til February 4 the play builds on a variety of fun and funny performances with elements of vaudeville and circus, and lots of silly costumes. Sundays it begins at 7 pm.

For Jobsite’s programs and its schedule, please visit www.jobsitetheater@gmail.com. Performances are at the TampaBayPerformingArtsCenter’s Shimberg Playhouse. Also see www.tbpac.org.

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