San Diego, CA---In Neil LaBute’s “reasons to be pretty” now in a stunning San Diego premiere production at Ion Theatre through Dec. 28th, ‘looking regular’ is not an option. At least that’s what has Steph (Rachael VanWormer) in an uproar.
It seems that her live in boyfriend of four years, Greg (Steve Froehlich) was overheard to have said to another fellow employee, Kent (Jorge Rodriguez) while hearing that a new female employee Crystal was ‘hot’, that Steph’s face was well…ordinary, and damn, if it didn’t get back to her. In fact what he actually said was that maybe her (Steph’s) face is just ‘regular’ but I wouldn’t trade her for a million bucks”. In Steph’s mind, that translated into... she was not “pretty”.
WOW! That just about turns Steph upside down and in the first five or so minutes of La Bute’s conversation, under director Claudio Raygoza’s deft hands, the faint of heart need not listen in because the barrage of f… bombs flying out of her mouth is enough to make any tough guy flinch.
From there on out it is all downhill for Greg and Steph as their in your face shouting match just about goes off the charts and anyone inches from those faces knew that it was not going to end pretty for either of them. And when Greg has about had it with Steph’s antics, he shouts back that he doesn’t want to see her ‘stupid’ face anymore. POW!
VanWormer, perfect for this onslaught, is non-stop convincingly angry. I mean as Steph, she is very, very, very angry. At some point you want to shout out, “Get over it”, but she has convinced herself that she is scarred for life by this off handed remark. On some level that resonates, as a bruised ego is not an easy wound to repair.
La Bute, who seems inspired by the plusses and minuses of body images, sets the stage while looking at the dark side of the price of prettiness and all the fuss about beautiful people and the bombardment that the beauty industry imposes, has written a trilogy “The Shape of Things”, “Fat Pig” and finally ‘Reasons to be Pretty” to bring home his point. In ‘reasons to be pretty” he takes no prisoners.
The play forms pictures in short scenes or vignettes and goes back and forth from workplace break room (Claudio Raygoza) to bedroom to restaurant to workplace (where most of the action takes place) and pits Greg against his fellow worker Kent who is married to Carly (Lynnia Shanley) who is a security guard there. They all work the night shift together.
While Greg is genuinely remorseful regarding his remark to Kent about Steph and will live to regret it, Kent on the other hand is an out and out SOB. He plays the pretty hand, the womanizing and old buddy hand to the hilt. In some circles he would be regarded as the company jerk because of his conceit and bossiness.
His wife, Carly is slim and beautiful and for a time they express their lovey dovey relationship in front of Greg and for the entire world to see. She is a also best friend to Steph. Unfortunately, that's how the whole business of Steph's regular face began.
Things change when Carly announces that she is expecting. Kent has already been playing the cheat card with the 'hot' new employee. Carly suspects- he denies and then he enlists Greg to take part in (read swear to take an oath) the cover up. Not to be undone, she questions what he (Greg) knows. Greg for all intents and purposes becomes volleyball for these players including his on again off again chance meetings with Steph.
When Greg is fed up with Kent (Rodriguez is on top of his game here) his lies, his deception and the fact that he dragged him into the charade, the two reach a boiling point at the company baseball playoff game that Kent wants so badly to win (he’s all about trophies), both begin a push and tug that ends up in a real look alike donnybrook.
Besides, Greg has bigger fish to fry. Seph has left the lovers den and is trying to start her life anew and Greg is at work putting the pieces of his together. It’s a bittersweet reunion that has them face-to-face once again when she, still hurt by the remark, can’t let go. As much as he plays the reconciliation card, she’s not done yet. And so it goes. Sometimes you can’t go home.
Of then four, Steve Froehlich has the most thankless yet the most convincing role to assure us that Greg is in fact the good guy here. He’s low key and affable yet manages to piss everyone off. While wrestling with his own set of morals and values, he convinces that good guys can come out on top and sometimes one has to stand for something, which he does with assurance, but it brings ultimate sadness.
Both women state their cases beautifully. Ms. Shanley, “will be alright” according to Steph and for some reason we know that to be true. As for VanWormer’s excellent portrayal of Steph, one can only hope. Finally, guys like Rodriguez’ Kent will go on to break other hearts and think nothing of it. His pretty boy looks and macho moves have much going for him and Rodriguez plays it well.
He along with the others make this one heck of a show to reflect on the beautiful people we see on the Red Carpet what goes on behind the scenes and what price beauty?
Melanie Chen’s sound design with the ever annoying end of lunch buzzer snapping everyone back to work and some rock music in the background along with Karin Filijan’s lighting give La Bute’s “reasons to be pretty” reasons to shop Ion this season.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Dec. 28th
Organization: Ion Theater
Production Type: Comedy/Drama
Where: 3704 Sixth Ave. San Diego, CA 92103
Ticket Prices: $20.00-$35.00