Reasons To Be Pretty

A bedroom scene from Neil LaBute's "Reasons To Be Pretty" at the Phoenix.




by Bryan Fonseca




had several criticisms while watching this, the third in Neil LaBute's "beauty"

trilogy (The Shape of Things, Fat Pig), but by the end, most flaws moved over to the

plus column. The story begins with the beauty issue: Stephanie's boyfriend Greg

has called her "regular"--as in "not pretty." The structure of the ensuing

comic bedroom fight is then repeated in almost every other scene: two

characters on the verge of ending a conversation when something (anger,

kindness, a joke) pulls them back into it. The repeated rhythm gets tiring, but

LaBute makes a point about our urge to stay connected to others, perhaps to

avoid being alone. Scenes bounce back and forth between the grocery-store where

Greg works and several other locales (mall, restaurant, park), with glimpses of

a second couple's crumbling relationship and a dull muscle-flexing male

stereotype named Kent. The play's predictable elements and emphasis on

"relationship" put me in mind of Neil Simon and some terrible 1970's film and

TV. However, director Bryan Fonseca rolls out the scenes slowly to reveal a

more satisfying undercurrent. Greg isn't a total schmuck and Stephanie may be

the one who judges herself by her looks. Lead actors Ryan Artzberger and Angela

Plank build a sweet, sad romantic tension as Reasons becomes less about

re-uniting the couple and more about each of them figuring out what they want

life to look like.Through August 1.