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'The Money Shot' review: LaBute brings laughs

Frederick Weller and Callie Thorne in Neil LaBute's

Frederick Weller and Callie Thorne in Neil LaBute's "The Money Shot" at The Lucille Lortel Theatre. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Who would have imagined that Neil LaBute, the acidic playwright whose work explore violent, deceptive behavior between the sexes from a dark, seemingly misogynistic point of view (i.e. "The Shape of Things," "Fat Pig"), actually has a sense of humor?

"The Money Shot," his newest work, is a parody of idiotic Hollywood stars, industry types and hangers on, not unlike the popular HBO television series "Entourage." (As it happens, LaBute was once mentioned in conversation on an early episode of "Entourage.")

A vain, vapid film actor (Frederick Weller) and his young, modelesque trophy wife (Gia Crovatin) have arrived at the showy home of the diva actress (Elizabeth Reaser, who replaced Heather Graham in rehearsal) that he is currently shooting a film with, where she lives with her know-it-all, athletic girlfriend (Callie Thorne).

After an hour of awkward chitchat and a tray of shrimp appetizers, the celebs reveal that they may be taking their sex scene to a graphic extreme, leaving their significant others to question just how far the "talent" (Hollywood's code name for actors) should be willing to go for the sake of preserving their waning box office appeal.

In one of the most hilarious bits, the couples attempt to map out which sex positions would be acceptable and which cross the line.

The 100-minute play ends on a strangely random note that calls out for some kind of resolution. But before then, there were plenty of great one-liners and hammy physical antics, including a climactic wrestling match.

While this is certainly not LaBute's most compelling work (nor is it his worst for that matter), it makes for a refreshing change considering how humorless and uncomfortably violent his other work can be.

Terry Kinney, a co-founder of Chicago's famous Steppenwolf Theatre, has apparently urged his cast to play up their roles to the extreme. Were the performances more toned down, the laughs would probably still be intact and the play might feel more coherent.

If you go:

2.5 stars

"The Money Shot" plays at the Lucille Lortel Theatre through Oct. 12. 121 Christopher St., mcctheater.org.

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