Director Kel Haney came to the Neil LaBute play, “The Way We Get By,” with certain expectations.
LaBute “tends to have some twists that nobody’s expecting,” says Haney. “And even as someone who was expecting those twists, the twists that happen in this play … I was delighted at how unexpected they were, for me, when I read through it the first time.”
Haney describes the two-person play, which the American Theater Group is presenting at the Hamilton Stage of the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway through Feb. 14, as “a really fascinating character study.”
“It’s a piece that I feel is truly accessible to people who don’t know Neil LaBute’s work, but at the same time I think it’s very rewarding and gratifying for people who are familiar with his work,” she says. “As a director and an artist, I’m really drawn to working on plays that are actor-driven and character-driven. And that’s certainly this play.
“It’s a night in these two characters’ lives. It’s in real time: It’s 75 minutes that take place in the middle of the night, after … or, shall I say, like, in the middle of a potential one-night stand. So we don’t know who they are. We don’t know where they are. We don’t know their relationship to each other. But we start to suspect that they have this kind of shared past.”
Turna Mete and Eric Clem portray the couple in the play, which premiered off-Broadway last year, with Amanda Seyfried and Thomas Sadoski in those roles. Haney did not see that production.
“I don’t know how I would have felt about directing it if I had seen it in New York,” she says. “(Not having seen it) lets me make my own choices.”
She has, though, been a fan of LaBute’s — whose other works include “In the Company of Men,” “The Shape of Things” and “reasons to be pretty” — for a long time.
“One of my first pieces that I did in college, years ago, was ‘The Shape of Things,’ ” she says. “I was immediately drawn, as a young person, to Neil’s talent for vernacular. And I just was fascinated with how he was able to get on the page how people actually communicate — or, shall I say, attempt to communicate — with one another. And that really stuck with me.”
Here are some brief comments from Haney …
… and from Mete and Clem: