Reasons to Be Pretty at the Geffen Theatre

 

Reasons to be Pretty, Neil LaBute’s first play to make it to the big stage on Broadway five years ago makes its debut in Los Angeles at the Geffen Theatre under the direction of Randall Arney.  Scenic Designer Takeshi Kata, with the help of Lighting Designer, Daniel Ionazzi, created the exceptional sets.  Although it took five years for the explosive Tony-nominated play to make the trip from New York. the monologues of each character sharing their idea of beauty and their relationship to it – one of the best parts of the performance-  has been put back into the play.

Reasons to be Pretty completes the trilogy following The Shape of Things and Fat Pig.  The action centers on four young working class friends, a married couple and a live-in one, who become increasingly dissatisfied with their dead-end lives and each other.  These four probably knew each other in high school and they wind up in the same factory on the night shift, loading boxes, and socializing in the break room eating lunch in the middle of the night.  When Greg makes an innocuous, off-handed remark about his girlfriend Steph, and it repeated by pal, Kent, to his wife, Carly, who repeats it to Steph, it triggers a battle by which their relationships will forever be defined. And it was not because it was repeated inaccurately.  Reasons to Be Pretty continues the story of The Shape of Things, and Reasons to Be Happy, the sequel premiered in June 2013 at MCC Theater here in Los Angeles.

 

Kent (Nick Gehlfuss) and Greg (Shawn Hatosy)

As Arney put it, the play questions the construct of beauty and the high emotional price we place on it.  And it is a high price paid for our contemporary, American obsession with physical appearance from the first f-you in the vituperative diatribe of Steph (Amber Tamblyn), to her otherwise pretty much okay, reliable, easy-going boyfriend of four years, Greg, (Shawn Hatosy).  The reason?  She  is devastated, not as much because he told a friend that co-worker (who never appears on stage) has a “pretty” face but that he described Steph’s face as “regular.”  

Direction by Randall Arney begins on a piercingly shrill note, with nowhere to go, and stays there every time she is on stage. In fact, there is even a “Violence Designer,” Ned Mochel, listed in the credits. This is a girl who flushes pet fishes down the toilet in revenge, who socks ex-boyfriends in the jaw for the tiniest perceived insult.  It’s painful to listen to this unending cry of despair. Even this turns to a whimper when Steph does find a proper suitor who finds her pretty and she still wants Greg as her partner.

 

Carly (Alicia Witt)

   

Steph (Amber Tamblyn) and Greg (Shawn Hatosy)

Is this how blue-collar folks "talk" to each other?  It certainly lacks the musicality of street talk, and the raw strenth and nobility of the 60's British working class plays.  Still, Reasons to Be Pretty conveys a message that resonates long after it is over.  This is overheard conversation that conveys the lack of any other way to express the lack of confidence of people who feel stuck in their allotted place in the world. At a loss for words, the four characters struggle to convey their thoughts and feelings and we see them grow onstage as they reach out to each other to explore new options for themselves. 

Kent, is obvious, full of raunchy, candid descriptions of people he thinks are beneath him, which is just about everyone. He can be called nothing less than a macho pig, which in his realm of thinking means sexy and brazen enough to double-time his own very pretty and subsequently pregnant wife, Carly with someone who might be “prettier.”  And this is what forces our anti-hero, albeit a book-reading one, Greg, into making a move that will change his life.  And we cheer him on, loudly.

So we do care about the fate of these four people and their observations, revelations, continual distress about relationships when they have little choice, and seem to be having  "little sex, less love and no fun at all."  We have to because they each are in a struggle and we see them grow,

Reasons to Be Pretty also provides another theatre opportunity to watch actors that have been a part of our TV viewing strut their stuff with vigor on stage:   Nick Gehlfuss (Shameless, The Newsroom), Shawn Hatosy (Southland, Reckless), Amber Tamblyn (Joan of Arcadia, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) and accomplished pianist, Alicia Witt (Justified, 88 Minutes), who we also loved in The Sopranos and in Cybil.

 

Performances run Tuesday – Friday at 8:00 PM; Saturday at 3:00pm; 8:00pm; Sunday at 2:00 Pm and 7:00 PM. Tickets are $39-$79 and are available in-person at the Geffen Playhouse box office, via phone at 310.208.5454 or online at www.geffenplayhouse.com.

The Gil Cates Theater at the Geffen Playhouse

10866 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024
For more information, please visit www.geffenplayhouse.com. 

 

 

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