Mass murder and the voice of God – Break of Noon at the Geffen Playhouse

Mass murder and the voice of God – Break of Noon at the Geffen Playhouse

Break of Noon - Anderson and Dent - photo by Michael Lamont


The latest play from controversial writer for stage and screen, Neil LaBute, makes its world premier at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood. In Break of Noon a man “˜finds God”™ after he is the sole survivor of an office mass murder rampage.

Review by Pauline Adamek

The life of everyman John Smith (Kevin Anderson) is irrevocably altered by his miraculous brush with death. Having “˜seen the light”™ and “˜heard the word of God,”™ this former reprobate wants to spread the good word. During a meeting with a flashy, showman-like lawyer (John Earl Jelks) John is tantalized by the possibility of selling a photo he managed to snap of the killer and the carnage. While John demurs about capitalizing on the deadly slaughter, the lawyer turns it around, smoothly suggesting, “You could do a lot of good with that money.”

John”™s path to enlightenment takes him on a 12-step journey seeking to make amends with his ex-wife, his ex-girl-on-the-side (both played by Catherine Dent) and even the daughter of one of the victims. But is John”™s preaching about his divine encounter merely a ploy to attain fame, a chance to escape his dodgy past, or is it part of an infinite and almighty plan?

LaBute”™s play proves to be highly topical, opening on the heels of the recent attempted assassination of Senator Giffords and murder and maiming of several bystanders. Sadly, this is a tragically common occurrence during these tempestuous times, both here and abroad.

In fact, the ambiguous treatment of this subject matter is the weakest element of this otherwise beautifully crafted and well-staged play. LaBute”™s writing is superb. He has an ear for authentic yet edgy dialogue and the masterful ability to shape each scene, occasionally sending into an unexpected direction.

One scene in particular, where our anti-hero enlists the services of an enthusiastic prostitute Gigi (Tracy Chimo), takes an extreme right-hand turn and had the audience in tears by its conclusion. But this episode was somewhere just after the halfway mark of the play and regrettably that emotional depth was not reached once more.

Break of Noon - photo by Michael Lamont

Thanks to LaBute”™s excellent writing and characterizations, the performances from the cast of four are equally exceptional. There seems no doubt that it”™s the material that elevates and solidifies this casts”™ performances. All but Anderson double up their roles to excellent effect, apart from John Earl Jelks who offered very little delineation between his two roles of lawyer and detective. Tracee Chimo is a scream as a gratingly phony TV talk show host, completely slick and smarmy and flashing her rictus grin on cue.

Director Jo Bonney punctuates the close of each scene with a flash of bright lighting and a dramatic sound cue for maximum impact, complementing the barbed dialogue and John”™s questionable evangelism.

The Break of Noon

Geffen Playhouse

10866 Le Conte Ave., Westwood.

Runs until Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tue.-Fri, 8 p.m.;

Sat., 3pm and 8 p.m.;

Sun., 2pm and 7 p.m.

Running time:

Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.


are $45.00″”$70.00, plus booking charges.

Box Office:

Purchase here or call the box office on (310) 208-5454


The Geffen Playhouse has been a hub of the Los Angeles theater scene since opening its doors in 1995. Noted for its intimacy and celebrated for its world-renowned mix of classic and contemporary plays, provocative new works and musicals, the Geffen Playhouse continues to present a body of work that has garnered national recognition. Named in honor of entertainment mogul and philanthropist David Geffen, who made the initial donation to the theater, the company is helmed by Producing Director and President of the Board Gilbert Cates, Artistic Director Randall Arney, Managing Director Ken Novice and Chairman of the Board Frank Mancuso. Proudly associated with UCLA, the Geffen Playhouse welcomes an audience of more than 130,000 each year, and maintains an extensive education and outreach program, designed to engage young people and the community at large in the arts. For more information, please visit their official site.


MCC Theater is one of New York City’s leading Off Broadway theater companies, committed to presenting New York and world premieres each season. When MCC Theater was founded in 1986, its mission was simple: to bring new theatrical voices to theater-going audiences. MCC Theater continues to accomplish this yearly through presentation of its mainstage works; its Literary Program, which actively seeks and develops new and emerging writers and its Education & Outreach Program, allowing more than 1,200 students yearly to experience theater, increase literacy and discover their own voices in the arts. Notable MCC Theater highlights include: the 2008 Tony Award-nominated Reasons to be Pretty by Neil LaBute, last season”™s Fifty Words, the 2004 Tony-winning production of Bryony Lavery”™s Frozen; Neil LaBute”™s Fat Pig; Rebecca Gilman”™s The Glory of Living; Marsha Norman”™s Trudy Blue; Margaret Edson”™s Pulitzer Prize-winning Wit; Tim Blake Nelson”™s The Grey Zone and Alan Bowne”™s Beirut. Over the years, the dedication to the work of new and emerging artists has earned MCC Theater a variety of awards. For a complete production history, visit their official site.

Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek is a Los Angeles-based arts enthusiast with twenty-five years' experience covering International Film Festivals and reviewing new Theatre, Film and Restaurants.


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