TheatreSquared’s fifth season comes to a close with reasons to be pretty, a deft romantic drama that delves into the gender divide, the working class world and the abyss of our language’s inadequacies to express ourselves.
The first scene opens with a bang, as a couple storms onto the stage in the midst of one hell of a fight between our hero, the bookish Greg, and his live-in girlfriend, Steph. The conflict, we learn, arises from an overheard conversation wherein Greg called her “regular,” an unassuming term of little endearment to his lover. The devolution of their relationship from there puzzles him. He goes back to his blue-collar job, hefting boxes with his best friend, Kent, and the whistle-blowing security guard, Kent’s wife, Carly. The plot doesn’t exactly thicken, but sort of doubles up, as Kent entrusts Greg with the knowledge that he is cheating. Despite a crass veneer, the plot works its way toward a clear exploration of the complexities of relationship: how we speak to one another, view ourselves and our bodies, and the loyalties we hold. The play is straightforward and develops easily from one moment to the next.
reasons to be pretty debuted on Broadway in 2009 to good reviews and full-audiences and may well be Neil LaBute’s greatest work to date. It even garnered a Tony nomination for Best New Play that year. Known best for his film, In the Company of Men, LaBute has made his name with expletive-driven assaults and his cleverly casual use of the current vernacular. Martin Miller, T2’s steadfast Managing Director, gave a brief speech before the show, tacitly warning the audience about the language content. After that, I was kind of expecting worse, but still, the show is not for kids. For a Sunday matinee, the house was pretty full, and reasons to be pretty promises to end what has been a successful season for the theatre on a high note.
There are moments in the production that truly shine and it’s the second act that really makes the show. One scene, where Carly, played brilliantly by local artist Rebecca Rivas, confronts Greg, New York actor, Dusty Brown (who seems perfect for this role), asking him to fess up concerning his best friend in whose confidence she knows Greg is enmeshed. Kris Pruett plays the ideal brute in Kent, who provokes a physical entanglement that ends his and Greg’s friendship in a scene that smacks of the awkwardness of machismo. The relationship between Greg and Christin Sawyer Davis’ Steph isn’t always especially compelling, but Davis strikes a nice balance between her character’s vulnerability and combative nature (discovering for us that they are really one and the same).
At times the characters seemed to dance around each other on the stage in what appeared to be some slightly over-zealous blocking, but the energy between the characters always returned by the next one-line zinger or wrenching lock-eyed acknowledgement. The set was engaging and used to good effect, smoothly transforming a bedroom into a break room, or a mall food court into a fine restaurant (design credit goes to Nick Francone). The quality of the production, as usual, is high; all in all, the play is solid, and the production often holds the audience in thrall.
Tickets can be purchased at TheatreSquared’s website. Their sixth season, with some very promising shows I’m quite excited about, was just announced, as well. reasons to be pretty will run through May 1.
Tobias writes theatre reviews for the Fayetteville Flyer. He is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts through the Arkansas Programs in Creative Writing and Translation and teaches at the University of Arkansas. He is also an associate company member with The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre. For more of Tobias’ contributions, see his author page.