My high school guidance counselor was a nice middle-aged lady who helped me fill out my college applications. In Neil LaBute’s new solo drama “All the Ways to Say I Love You,” “Transparent” star Judith Light plays a guidance counselor who ends up doing a hell of lot more with one particular male student than just paperwork.
On the surface, this does not seem like an unusual work for LaBute, 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 dork and then reveals that it was all a ruse, breaking the boy’s heart and drawing ire from many spectators.
Although Light’s character, Mrs. Johnson, cheats on her husband and even ends up having the student’s child (while keeping her husband in the dark about everything), “All the Ways to Say I Love You” is a relatively sympathetic character portrait, in which Mrs. Johnson opens up about the weight of her anguish and regret. It’s as if LaBute is trying to confront the general perception that his writing is misogynistic in tone.
Light, who won two consecutive Tony Awards in recent years, gives a shaded and dramatically effective performance under the direction of Leigh Silverman (Broadway revival of “Violet”) that keeps you drawn in.
That said, “All the Ways to Say I Love You” is a pretty slight offering on the part of off-Broadway’s MCC Theater (currently celebrating its 30th anniversary), running just an hour and with a single performer on a tiny set.
Couldn’t they at least have added a second monologue with another actor? Why not have an actor play the student or the husband? Let’s hear their sides of the story.