By Terry Kelleher
August 28, 2000 12:00 PM

Showtime (Mon., Aug. 28, 8 p.m. ET)

Show of the week

If you’ve seen either of his movies—In the Company of Men or Your Friends & Neighbors—you are aware that writer-director Neil LaBute does not have a sunny view of human nature. If not, don’t say we didn’t warn you that this trilogy of short plays by LaBute will leave you chilled and depressed.

Nevertheless, this is a recommendation that you watch bash (subtitled latter day plays, in an apparent reference to the Mormon background shared by the author and his characters). Performing before a live audience, Ally McBeal star Calista Flockhart, Ron Eldard and Paul Rudd brilliantly repeat their roles from last year’s Off-Broadway production. The actors are so compelling that you’re likely to be shocked and even sickened as their characters recount behavior that can fairly be termed depraved.

In the opener, Rudd and Flockhart portray a college couple in formal clothes telling of a big party in Manhattan. The second segment is a monologue by Flock-hart as a tense, bitter young woman who seems to be under arrest. The third and best of the plays offers Eldard as a deceptively affable middle-management type baring his secrets to an unseen hooker in a hotel room. There’s a sameness to the dramas in that each moves slowly toward a gruesome revelation, but you’ll be held by these people almost against your will. For the record, bash does contain a few laughs—the kind that die in your throat.

Bottom Line: Tune in, but don’t get comfortable