Relationships in “Reasons to be Pretty”
At the Theatre with Audrey Linden
Playwright Neil La Bute’s “Reasons to Be Pretty” at the Geffen Playhouse explores relationships as did his other plays in the series, “The Shape of Things”, “Fat Pig”, and “Reasons to Be Happy”. But, in this play, La Bute explored appearances and what makes a woman pretty or beautiful and how these appearances affect romantic relationships, work relationships and friendships. La Bute’s play transcended the role of appearances through the lead character, Greg, with a finely wrought performance by Shawn Hatosy, as he dealt with issues of friendship, loyalty and trust. His character had a great arc as Greg came into his own and matured.
The play took place in a factory with three of the characters, Greg, Kent, and Carly who were blue collar workers. The two couples engaged in a somewhat belabored dance about love, trust, friendship, beauty, and betrayal after Greg made an off-the-cuff careless remark about his girlfriend Steph’s face privately to his friend Kent over a few beers. It wasn’t as if he had said she was “ugly”. All he said was, “Steph has a regular face”.
Kent’s beautiful wife, Carly overheard and told her friend, Steph and all hell broke loose as Steph confronted Greg in their bedroom. This one innocuous remark set the stage as Act 1 opened with a shouting match between Greg and Steph. Later, Kent and Carly’s relationship also came into question. Randall Arney’s swift and deft direction moved the play along at a fast clip and kept us at the edge of our seats as the relationships unraveled. There was no predicting what would happen.
Nick Gehlfuss’ Kent was a crude, womanizing dumb jock-jerk . Gehlfuss did an excellent job in bringing Kent to life. I had no sympathy for his Kent, who was portrayed as a prisoner to his male appetite. His beautiful wife, Carly, (Alicia Witt), the security guard at the same factory, does the rounds as she keeps an eye on her husband. Kent is jealous of his wife’s position and of the men who oogle at her. She got the promotion because of her looks.
Steph’s over reaction showed she was plagued with insecurities about her looks. She knows she was a really cute girl way back in elementary school. She cannot overcome that one stupid remark Greg had made, which set her off in storm of swearing and destruction that ends the relationship.
Though Greg was a voracious reader, Greg was immature and never seemed to know the right thing to say. Whenever he opened his mouth, he made things worse. The high emotionalism and screaming in the opening Act seemed a bit much, other than to establish Steph as volatile and out of control. If I had one complaint it was that her reaction was overplayed at the opening. Where do you go from there? Thank goodness, the play balanced out.
As the play unfolded, the audience was the fly on the wall as we went from the couple’s apartment to the break room at the factory, the Food Court at the mall, a restaurant, and baseball practice. Takeshi Kata’s sets, which moved in and out seamlessly helped establish the reality beautifully.
In between the action, the characters stepped forward and revealed their inner thoughts and secrets in their monologues as they told the audience revealing thoughts and personal details. Steph had always been insecure about her looks
Kent was always jealous over other men looking at his beautiful wife, Carly. Carly knows “beauty comes with a price”. She has been made to feel like she is an object always being gawked at. No one talks about her wit, her intelligence. “That’s the price of being beautiful”. Greg aspires to more. He loved Steph. He really did. He wished he had never made the remark. But, it’s like,”Get over it.” He would like to stay with Steph.
I loved the awkward silences when Greg and Steph met at the mall, their accidental meeting in the restaurant and when she came to the break room to talk to him. The delicate thread of love was still woven between them. I was like a gossamer silken thread, which had me hanging on. The writing was meaningful and the direction skilful and so much was said in these pregnant pauses. One word might have had Steph and Greg together again. I felt and saw the invisible threads that held these two together. The writing, direction and acting all were powerful.
There were so many layers and subtexts in “Reasons to Be Pretty”. What does it mean to be pretty? What is the price of beauty? Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Like Greg said, “It’s all subjective.” Issues of self-esteem were raised. Integrity, trust, friendship, love all were part of the layers exposed. What does it mean to be a friend? A fine line had been drawn on those boundaries between Greg and Kent. Ultimately, one has to love himself and be true to oneself. Like Greg said as he saw Steph’s transition, ”We’re both searching for a new way forward.” Ultimately, we have to love ourselves and be true to ourselves.” One can hope that any relationship will make us a better person. In his monologue, Greg became the “everyman” as he observed and grew from the relationship.
As in past plays of his, La Bute did not leave us with the feeling that all men are jerks who objectify women. He gave us a new view, much different than in his previous plays. His Greg was a fully defined character who dealt with the issues and grew into a “decent” human being as he came into his own. Maybe, just maybe, he won’t be judgmental and will be kinder. There is much to ponder and learn from these characters. You will leave thinking about the play. And, that’s good!
“Reasons to Be Pretty” runs through August 31st at the Geffen Playhouse at 10866 Le Conte in Westwood. Tickets range from $39-$79. For tickets call 310-208-5454 or go on line to www.geffenplayhouse.com
Audrey Linden is a writer, actress and singer. She can be seen in a long-running “Associated Tax Resolution” commercial, two “Little Caesars” spots, a “Teva International Pharmaceutical” short, Gene Simmons’ “Family Jewels,” “America’s Court with Judge Ross,” VHS “Tough Love 2,” “Wendy’s” , “Shimmer” commercial etc.
Audrey teaches ON CAMERA COMMERCIAL and IMPROV COMEDY WORKSHOPS through the City of Beverly Hills. To register, call 310-285-6850 M-F 8:00 A M to 3:30 P M. Her classes are held at 241 Moreno Dr. B.H. 90212. Her classes are start again in September. Registration opens mid-August. She is offering her On Camera Commercial class only. For more information, contact Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org