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Analysis of Labute’s Play “The Mercy Seat”


LaBute’s play The Mercy Seat was one of the first key theatrical rejoinders to the September 11, 2001 assaults. Set on September 12, it disquiets a man who worked at the World Trade Center but was absent in the office while the attack took place – with his love mate. Supposing that his family suggests that he was killed in the towers’ fall down, he considers using the disaster to escape and start a new life with his lover. Starring Liev Schreiber and Sigourney Weaver, the play attained the commercial and critical triumph, due in large part to its readiness to confront the myths that many New Yorkers had created to cheer up themselves afterward to the attacks.

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The current paper aims to discuss the relations between these two characters, what both want to gain from the other, and what type of lover do they both need. To give clear statements of these questions it would be necessary to review the plot and discuss some additional circumstances.


The play was an expressively draining practice for Weaver and Schreiber. Weaver (who had already emerged in the 9/11-themed play The Guys) declared that “It takes its toll…It’s difficult to be that coarse to each other, it’s not so easy to be those characters, and it’s difficult to be that rough to the world circumstances…But I must say, as well as appalling, the play was funny. And essential.” Schreiber, who stepped in to play Ben after recurrent LaBute partner Aaron Eckhart confirmed unavailable, was deeply impacted by his character’s flaws, stating, “Doing this role, I feel, well, shadier. Not that I’m doing anything shady. It’s like trying to shake off an itch that’s not there.

On the outside, the principle is fascinating. Ben Harcourt (Simon Wood) is a married man who is having love relations with his boss, Abby Prescott (Jane Badler). When the Twin Towers were attacked, he was believed to be inside; but in its place, he bounced work and headed over to Abby’s place for a quick head job. But the earth moved in rather unforeseen ways, leaving the residence covered in a thin layer of dust and both Ben and Abby upset and astonished.


The play continues a day later. Ben is still at Abby’s apartment, secreting out. His first reply to the disaster is to see it as a capability: it is a possibility to leave his wife and children without the muddle of painful clarifications and to make a run for a new life (or, as he has it, to “walk into the dusk”). He is declining to reply to the anxious calls from his family, who suggest he is among the dead. Narcissistic, mumbling, and hopelessly selfish, Ben is regarded to be that classic LaBute character, a jerk.

Most probably, both do not love each other. Abby should realize that they will never be together, as Ben needs only sexual satisfaction, and he will never be able to feel the soul of any lady.

Thus, the only conclusion may be made – Ben is a jumper, and if he loses interest in the woman he dates, he wishes to part as painlessly as possible. Thus, consequently, he would further lose interest in Abby and will search for other justifications to part. Most probably, that to get “clamed down” Ben needs a vamp lady, who would catch him up, and will never let him even look in the side of other ladies. It is a commonly known fact that a man behaves as a woman permits him to. Thus women are not less responsible for the men’s behavior than the men themselves.

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And Abby needs someone who would be attentive to her, and take her “as is”, realizing what responsibility she is imposed on.

Sounds like it could be strong, interesting. Well, is not. After the exhibition, watchers spend an hour and forty minutes of conversation in which is discovered what a pathetic, self-absorbed, self-deluded revolting personality Ben is and how frantic his older love mate is to have him for herself. After a short time all the dialogues, the self-pitying, the self-loathing turn to be deadly.

The key secrecy is why a seemingly elegant woman would spend more than a solitary night with this man, whom at one point she maintains is mere “a piece of ass”. He is a chiefly boring lover, who in three years of excited bonking has never once looked her in the face, and whose erotic ingenuity is restricted to beating her from after and a little oral sex. (She is so irked she creates shopping lists during the act). Does she put up with him as she’s automatically expiating some female guilt about making more money than he does? Alternatively, why is he so preoccupied with a woman who is either a mass of points or a marsh of neediness?


Taking into account all the pointed facts on the relations of Ben and Abby, it is possible to conclude, that they would inevitably part. He bores her, and he is one of those who never stop. That is why the variant that is possible is either get back to the family, or start a new life, preferably in the other country to get a bit more experienced and get the taste of life back, after overcoming all the challenges of immigrant life.

Works cited

LaBute, Neil. The Mercy Seat Faber & Faber publisher, 2003.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 26). Analysis of Labute’s Play “The Mercy Seat”.

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1. StudyCorgi. "Analysis of Labute’s Play “The Mercy Seat”." October 26, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Analysis of Labute’s Play “The Mercy Seat”." October 26, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Analysis of Labute’s Play “The Mercy Seat”." October 26, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Analysis of Labute’s Play “The Mercy Seat”'. 26 October.

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