BWW Reviews: NonProphet Theatre Company's Brilliant Production of REASONS TO BE PRETTY
Playwright Neil Labute's Reasons to be Pretty is the third in a trilogy of plays focusing on the modern day obsession with the way people look, following Shape of Things and Fat Pig. It's the least gimmicky of the three, relying on more honest sounding dialog delivered by four working class friends whose relationships taking interesting turns over the course of the work. NonProphet Theatre Company is presenting a sharp, straight-forward production that's clear and focused in execution.
When Greg makes an offhand remark to his buddy Kent when comparing his girlfriend Steph's looks to some hot chick who just started working at the same food factory they're both employed at, his wife Carly overhears the comment and sets in motion a chain of events that will negatively touch all of them in one way or another. Naturally, Carly relays the message to Steph who takes Greg's remark as a mortal offense, even though it wasn't meant that way in the least. Still, he could have done better than calling her "regular" looking, but that's really beside the point. Steph's sensitivity to his description of her leads her to break with Greg in a painful, and in one instance, humiliatingly public fashion. Meanwhile Kent has hooked up with the office "hottie", even though Carly is a very attractive woman who is about to find out she's pregnant as well. The plot thickens and the relationships get messier as it does, and in the end, no one is completely satisfied (even if they think they are), but they've moved on just the same.
Rachel Hanks is terrific as Steph, initially introduced to us as a bitchy plain Jane in clunky glasses, ill-fitting jeans and sneakers, and who is grilling Greg over just exactly what he said to his friend Kent about her. Greg is initially gobsmacked by Steph's third degree, but gradually begins to realize the depths that his comment has hurt her, of course by that time it's too late. Tom Lehmann does very good work here as Greg, confused and perplexed by the events that are occurring around him, but eventually doing the right thing for someone when it really counts.
Jonthan Ellison brings out the adolescent qualities that define Kent, including his willingness to risk his marriage by changing his shift and starting up a dalliance with the aforementioned office bombshell. Rachel Fenton also does fine work as Carly, a security guard where Kent and Greg both work. She's a natural beauty, the type who doesn't wear makeup because she really doesn't need to. All four characters are given monologues that allow them to define their roles and beliefs in detail. Each provides us with some insight into their motives.
Robert A. Mitchell's direction is superb, with each actor completely invested and focused in their respective roles. Heather Tucker's simplistic scenic design allows a few chairs and a projected backdrop to set the mood and keep our attention squarely on the action at hand. Tucker's lighting and costumes also work well.
Reasons to be Pretty is a brilliant little work, acerbic, biting and witty, but thought-provoking as well. The NonProphet Theatre Company does it complete justice and make it a play well worth seeing. The production continues through October 9, 2011 at the Regional Arts Commission building on Delmar.