Neil LaBute, in his new play – reasons to be pretty – which has just transferred from Off-Broadway to the big time at the Lyceum, tackles male/female, male/male and female/female relationships head on. And I do mean tackle.
From the outset we have Steph (Marin Ireland) with rapid fire dialogue that resembles a heated tennis match, vocally and physically berating her boyfriend of four years, Greg (Thomas Sadoski) for seemingly slighting her. Her best friend Carly (Piper Perabo) has called to tell her that Greg, while speaking with her husband Kent, (Steven Pasquale) has said something unflattering about the way Steph looks. It’s a minor item for Greg but Steph goes ballistic and there seems to be no stopping her. The more he tries to explain that he never used the word “ugly” the more trouble he gets himself into and cannot control this woman totally out of control.
If this sounds like an episode from Seinfeld you would be on the right track. But there are further complications. Without which there wouldn’t be much drama. Well, there’s plenty here under the razor sharp direction of Terry Kinney. Kent and Greg work packing frozen food where Carly is a security guard. We see them often on their break – where we get insight into how they tick. Tick, tick, boom! Carly and Kent are having marital problems. She is newly pregnant and he is seeing a gorgeous co-worker that we never see – Crystal. He mentions this to Greg who is then questioned by Carly. It’s a case of the more he says or doesn’t say, the worse it gets. And all he wants is to read his Poe and Hawthorne and get back into the good graces of Steph. Why, oh why we wonder.
If they’ve been together for four years he must have seen this side of her before. Or has see been festering so long that she just explodes over this “he doesn’t think I’m beautiful moment”? But she loves him. Or does she?
In another hard to accept moment – or rather scene, Steph is having dinner with someone new – who we never see. He is inside a restaurant while Steph and Greg go at it in round two of this sparring match – outside. It’s an awfully long time for her new date to wait. Eventually, new date and she become engaged and Steph comes to Greg’s workplace – to explain. Not before Greg and Kent duke it out over Greg’s refusal to cover Kent’s infidelities.
After Act I, I asked myself who would want to see the outcome of all this. But I persevered and Act II is much better in fleshing out all of their inner problems and coming to grips with facing those problems as adults and not like some whining spoiled children.
The acting is superb. Thomas Sadoski tries so hard to get the bitch from hell to understand that we empathize with him completely. Marin Ireland as said bitch really isn’t, giving a wonderful insight into her insecurities and inner turmoil. As macho Kent, Steven Pasquale deserves everything he gets. Piper Perabo as his wife is one sharp cookie when it comes to finding out the truth. Four characters in a dysfunctional love situation. Despite my reservations with the script, four excellent reasons to see reasons to be pretty.
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