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Belinda and Cody Phipps appear to be a typical Midwestern couple. Typical, except that Cody is one of the few black faces in a small white town. When a white, male high school acquaintance returns to town and rents the room over their garage, he upsets the fragile balance of Belinda and Cody’s relationship. As a battle for Belinda’s affections ensues, Belinda and Cody question the foundation of their initial attraction, opening the door to a swath of bigotry and betrayal. Directed by Artistic Director Tom Ross and featuring Aldo Billingslea* (Collapse), Gabriel Marin* (Collapse, Jack Goes Boating), and Carrie Paff* (A Delicate Balance, Collapse), this dark and edgy comic drama, hailed “smart and stylish” by New York Magazine, brazenly explores the myriad ways in which the race wild card is played by both black and white America.

Runtime: 1 hour 40 minutes

*Member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers
Critics are saying
Neil LaBute doesn't just play the race card in his theatrically engrossing and provocative "This Is How It Goes." He's playing with a full deck cagily stacked for maximum entertainment and discomfort in the invigorating Aurora Theatre regional premiere...a beguilingly deceptive piece of work, a quality beautifully elaborated in director Tom Ross' production. Read Full Review »
- Robert Hurwitt
San Francisco Chronicle
Tautly directed by Tom Ross, "This Is How It Goes" exposes the tenacity of prejudice in America, and it doesn't flinch in the face of the bigotry it finds in any quarter. No one is innocent in this explosive deconstruction of small-town America in its regional premiere at Berkeley's Aurora Theatre Company...this three-character mind game pushes our buttons hard. Read Full Review »
- Karen D'Souza
San Jose Mercury News/Bay Area News Group
This Is How It Goes is apt to leave theatergoers with the sense of having experienced something penetrating, something special. Read Full Review »
- Woody Weingarten
Part of what makes This is How it Goes some of the smartest theatre of 2013 is that the three-person cast includes some of the best Bay Area actors around Read Full Review »
- Cy Ashley Webb
Stark Insider
Kicking off the season with The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity and closing with [This is How It Goes] demonstrates that the Aurora isn’t afraid to deal with the multi-dimensionality of race. Read Full Review »
- Cy Ashley Webb
Stark Insider
Aurora Theatre’s final production of the season is also its finest of the season. Read Full Review »
- Emily S. Mendel
Sharply directed by Aurora head Tom Ross, [This is How It Goes] becomes a fun house of distorted mirrors and mazes. Read Full Review »
- Suzanne Weiss
Culture Vulture
Aurora’s production [of This is How It Goes] is playful, yet powerfully engaging and marked by consistently outstanding performances. In their skillful hands,This Is How It Goes goes very well indeed. Read Full Review »
- Elaine Beale
[a] complex, thought-provoking drama...[director] Tom Ross deftly builds both the humor -- — of which there is plenty -- and the tension between his three fine actors. Read Full Review »
- Sally Hogarty
Bay Area News Group
...an intricate and challenging play...[a] sharp and powerfully written piece of theater executed flawlessly. Read Full Review »
- Sam Hurwitt
a sharp Aurora Theatre production...[Tom] Ross directs with crisp efficiency, and the cast burns with conviction. Read Full Review »
- Georgia Rowe
SF Examiner
This is not a play for the faint of heart. Read Full Review »
- Judy Richter
Aisle Say San Francisco
A moralizer through and through, [playwright Neil] LaBute prompts the audience to reflect on its own modes of judgment. Read Full Review »
- Alex Bigman
East Bay Express
LaBute prods his audience with the big stick of race relations, and the often unacknowledged prejudices that lurk in the hearts of men. And women. Read Full Review »
- Nicole Gluckstern
San Francisco Bay Guardian
[This Is How It Goes] unflinchingly paints an image of humanity in true and rare form. Read Full Review »
- Michelle Lin
The Daily Californian
[In This Is How It Goes] there is immediacy to the cat-and-mouse proceedings – not to mention a delicious sense of eavesdropping for the audience. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Read Full Review »
- Tony Frankel
Stage and Cinema
Behind the Scenes


  • Tom Ross - Director
  • Neil LaBute - Playwright
  • Aldo Billingslea* - Cody
  • Carrie Paff* - Woman
  • Gabe Marin* - Man
  • Wesley Apfel* - Stage Manager
  • Kim A. Tolman+ - Set Designer
  • Kurt Landisman+ - Light Designer
  • Laura Hazlett - Costume Designer
  • Chris Houston - Sound Designer
  • Mia Baxter/Seren Helday - Props Artisans

was Bulldog in Aurora Theatre Company’s World Premiere of Collapse. He is Professor of Theatre Arts at Santa Clara University. He has performed at the American Conservatory Theatre, Center REP, Magic Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, TheatreWorks, and the Shakespeare Festivals of California, Dallas, Marin, Oregon, Santa Cruz, Utah and Arabia. He has directed works by Lorraine Hansberry, Ntozake Shange, Neil Simon, and William Shakespeare. Billingslea has received Bay Area Critic’s Circle Awards and Backstage West Garlands. He is a member of the Playground Theatre Company, on the Advisory Board of the Gritty City Youth Theatre in Oakland and a Board Member of the Renegade Theatre Experiment.


is happy to return to Aurora where she has previously appeared in A Delicate Balance, Collapse, Small Tragedy and Betrayal. Recent credits include The Other Place at Magic Theatre; Tiny Alice and It’s a Wonderful Life at Marin Theatre Company; Bill W. & Dr. Bob at San Jose Rep; and Double Indemnity at A.C.T. in Seattle. Film work includes Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, A Fighting Season, Love & Taxes and This is Hamlet. She holds a Master’s degree in educational theater from New York University and is the cofounder of StageWrite, Building Literacy through Theatre.


is delighted to return to Aurora Theatre Company where he was previously seen in Collapse, Jack Goes Boating, The Devils Deciple, St Joan, The Glass Menagerie, and Gunplay. Recent Credits include Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World at Center REP, The Happy Ones at Magic Theatre, The Motherf**ker with the Hat at the SF Playhouse, It's a Wonderful Life at Marin Theatre Company, and The Understudy at San Jose Rep. Locally Marin has appeared in over 40 Equity productions with American Conservatory Theater, Aurora Theatre Company, Bay Area Playwrights Foundation, Black Box Theatre, Center REP, Magic Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, PlayGround, San Francisco Fringe Festival, San Jose Rep, San Francisco Playhouse, TheatreWorks, The Jewish Theatre, Thick Description, Word for Word and Z Space, among others. Mr. Marin was named Best Actor by the East Bay Express in their “Best of The East Bay 2010." Mr. Marin was named as co-MVP for 2011 by Sam Hurwitt (theIdiolect.com, Marin Independent Journal, KQED). He has performed on NBC, CBS, PBS and the BBC.

*Member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers

This Is What They Said

compiled by Josh Costello, Literary Manager

"Police will tell you that smart murderers, dumb murderers, kind murderers, or people without seemingly any shred of empathy within their body, still have a desire, a need to confess. It's a fascinating thing, and to say to an audience: 'I will tell you something that I won't even tell my partner; the person sitting next to me will never know that I did this'? That is such a heavy thing to put on them. I love it."

-Neil LaBute (The Independent, 2011)

"What to make of LaBute? Some notes to describe him: His work thus far induces tremendous agitation. Audiences get provoked, and then they get pissy. Or exhilarated. Hardly ever anything in between. Is this because of, or in spite of, the sly and gentle viciousness running through his uncertain and blustery cast of characters? There are subversives and terrorists all over the place. There are people who are, to quote Lady Caroline Lamb on Byron, “Mad, bad and dangerous to know.” There are bullies everywhere. But like most bullies, LaBute’s are scared, fucked-up little children out to fight old wars long forgotten."

-Jon Robin Baitz (Bomb Magazine, 2003)

"I love to push and probe and mess around on the page. To create a set of fictional characters who can stand in for me or you or whomever and put them to the test. The constant test of being human. What little victories and failures make up who we are? Why do we as individuals or a group or a country support one cause but not some other? Pretty fascinating stuff, at least to me."

-Neil LaBute (Bomb Magazine, 2003)

"As both dramatist ("Fat Pig") and filmmaker ("In the Company of Men"), Mr. LaBute has built a prolific career on vivisecting the unfair sex, with clinically contemptuous works that put the human male under a microscope and watch the little sucker squirm. Both moralistic and voyeuristic, his plays and movies seem always to be writhing in some ecstasy of self-flagellation, whispering all the while, "Oh, guys, we're bad, bad, bad — jerks, lowlife, pond scum." If there is masochism in the implicit litany, there is self-stroking smugness as well."

-Ben Brantley (The New York Times, 2006)

"I think I fall more straight down the line of humanist, and that means being fair to both sides. I'm not even very cynical. I'm just kind of suspicious of the way we deal with each other. I think that people are very driven by self-preservation and find it extremely difficult to live with other people and to maintain friendships and to be honest. If it's slightly easier to get away with something, then they'll give it a shot. A lot of the dynamics of what I discuss on paper are power relationships. The way that people jostle with each other to come out on top."

-Neil LaBute (The New York Times, 2004)

"I'm offended by his work. It's been a real problem in our marriage, to be honest... People say, 'He's a genius! It's so great! It's so deliciously dark!'. And my stomach is just churning."

-Lisa LaBute (Neil's former wife, 2003)

"I know so many people who love his work and then also a lot of people, particularly women, who are like, 'I don't know, the LaBute male is difficult for me to handle. Personally, I love it, because I think it's like, 'Good, show us the underbelly.' That's what Neil is interested in, not watching a man who went through 'redemption' and became a 'good' man, but a man who struggles to be good."

-Jo Bonney (Los Angeles Times, 2011)

"Those impulses must be there somewhere. To be able to create those characters, I have to be able to inhabit them. What interests me is to try and understand that person; it's not the racist joke that interests me so much as how they justify it. That fascinates me: what people do to live with themselves and what they've done."

-Neil LaBute (The Independent, 2011)

"As much as we talk about race in this country – it’s not necessarily reflected in popular culture... Skin color means absolutely nothing. Often what comes built into that is a cultural difference. People are naturally wary of things we’re not familiar with or don’t understand. There is a tendency to back off rather than put a hand forward... If Rodney King asks the question ‘can’t we all get along?,’ I would say after much scrutiny the answer would be ‘just barely’.”

-Neil LaBute (HollywoodChicago.com, 2008)

"He's a button-pusher. And he loves that. I mean, he revels in that. And then also sometimes he just simply likes a good yarn, a difficult character, a good joke. He's a storyteller, he's an entertainer."

-Jo Bonney (Los Angeles Times, 2011)

"I still write a lot of the time in a state of 'not knowing,' that is, without a pure sense of where I'll end up after I've started to write something and yet I enjoy that sensation. When it works it feels right and pure, and I think the best of my work written in this way has the same effect on the audience—leading them on a journey that is exciting and challenging, even if it turns out to be ultimately frustrating, bewildering or less than satisfying. The journey has hopefully been a good one."

-Neil LaBute (Gotham Writers Workshop, 2012) 

production photos
Photos by David Allen
*Member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers
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