My last experience with Mr. LaBute's work was his 1997 film "In the Company of Men," a film I found unbelievably distasteful due to the misogynistic characters. Not long into reasons to be pretty I thought to myself, oh no, here we go again. But that sense of dread left me during the second act. There was something to these characters. As the lights came up at intermission I turned to a friend and wondered aloud what Mr. LaBute's relationship with his mother must be like.
Thomas Sadoski (L) and Piper Perabo in reasons to be pretty
Greg's friend Kent, played by Steven Pasquale is an atypically macho Neil LaBute character. He is married to Carly, a security officer in the warehouse where the two men work humping pallets of groceries. Kent is a distasteful character who is cheating on his wife (who we later learn is pregnant) and asking his best friend Greg to cover for him. This ultimately comes to a head with a fight between the two men in the second act. Carly is played by Piper Perabo in a performance both stoic and emotionally revealing.
These are such well written characters and their dialogue, though mundane in the fact that these people are leading hum-drum lives is absolutely compelling. In reasons, Mr. LaBute has written a work that is easily accessible by anyone. We all know these people in real life and in fact, they may even be ourselves. The universality of relationships is profound evident in this play to anyone who has ever been in a relationship.
You could see from watching Mr. Sadoski's face as he was screaming back at Steph that this man had completely inhabited this role. He makes this character his own. You actually learn that Greg, though perhaps a bit lost in life, is the kind of guy you would want as a friend. The entire cast is brilliant.
Steven Pasquale and Thomas Sadoski (R) in reasons to be pretty
The play is directed by Terry Kinney with a brisk pace. Unfortunately, the fight scene in the second act staged by Manny Siverio seems far from realistic. Granted, sitting in the fourth row of the orchestra you are bound to see the minor flaws in what really is the equivalent of theatrical slight-of-hand. The set by David Gallo recreates the interior of a Costco or BJs around the perimeter of the stage. This portion of the set never moves or changes and is a constant reminder that these are men trapped by their career and life choices.
This is the kind of show that could get lost in the shuffle of a spring season that is seeing a record-breaking number of new openings, particularly plays. Don't let that happen. This is a compelling evening of theatre and I suggest you don't miss it. Get tickets
In other reviews:
Ben Brantley in the NY Times says "reasons to be pretty, which opened Thursday night at the Lyceum Theater in a wonderfully acted production directed by Terry Kinney, may turn out to be the sentimental sleeper of a season that includes star-powered, would-be tear-jerkers like 33 Variations and the unfortunate Impressionism. Read the entire review
Elysa Gardner for USA Today says "It takes a tender man to make plays as tough as Neil LaBute's. No contemporary writer has more astutely captured the brutality in everyday conversation and behavior; that kind of insight requires sensitivity and soul-searching." Read the entire review
For the Associated Press, Michael Kuchwara says "The complicated, often explosive relationships between men and women are a source of eternal, often contrary fascination for Neil LaBute, and they have been superbly realized in "reasons to be pretty," his most compassionate, appealing work to date." He goes on to say that reasons is "a highlight of the season." Read the entire review
For the Bergen Record, Robert Feldberg writes "the playwright delivers the goods, in a work that’s lively and compulsively watchable and that offers a fresh take on the eternal matter of achieving adulthood." Read the entire review