Saturday, March 28, 2009

reasons to be pretty (Lyceum Theatre)

By Molly
a funny drama • young and hip • lots of f-bombs • stellar performances • pushes the envelope in a good way

Thomas Sadoski and Marin Ireland in reasons to be pretty.

BOTTOM LINE: Bitingly funny and self-aware. Perfect entertainment, especially for members of Gens X and Y.

Neil LaBute is one of the greatest American playwrights out there today. He is prolific, hip and insightful. He generally writes about people in their 20s and 30s and his characters are always flawed yet relatable archetypes. Although LaBute has recognizable work from stage and screen (he penned The Shape of Things, Fat Pig and Nurse Betty, to name a few) this marks his Broadway debut. Reasons is a good choice for Broadway because the story isn't as alienating as some of his other work. There are still squeamy moments and brutal insults characteristic of any LaBute play, but unlike some of his other work, most of the characters in reasons are truly likable. Sure, they are flawed, but at their core they are sympathetic. This is especially true of the protagonist, Greg.

LaBute's writing style is sharp and aggressive. His characters sling bad words and insults at one another, never afraid to raise their voice or fight back in self-defense. When the scene isn't heated, their witty banter is reminiscent of an especially perceptive Friends episode. LaBute's themes are often about exposing the bullshit that underlies relationships, usually involving Gen-Xers living typical American lives. The superficiality of dating is a common theme as well. LaBute's work is captivating, in part, because his characters are so evocative of people you know and his stories are so authentically relatable.

Reasons is really a wonderful script performed to perfection by the cast of four. Greg (Thomas Sadoski) works the night shift with his friend Kent (Steven Pasquale), your standard misogynistic douchebag who is charming enough to get whatever he wants. When a new, hot employee joins the staff, Greg is caught saying something degrading about how his girlfriend Steph (Marin Ireland) looks in comparison. Kent's wife Carly (Piper Perabo) overhears the comment and quickly tells Steph, as any good girlfriend would. Steph is obviously pissed and hurt and the inevitable ugly breakup of Greg and Steph results. Everyone is a little bit in the wrong: Greg shouldn't have said anything in the first place, Kent shouldn't have brought it up and encouraged Greg to talk about it, Steph shouldn't have overreacted and Carly probably shouldn't have told Steph anyway. Add to this drama the complications that arise as Kent makes bad, deceitful decisions in his own life and you get a precarious scenario between four friends.

Director Terry Kinney does a great job keeping the scenes moving and the energy high; the tension is always lingering in the air. The stage is set with a generic room of sorts, including a back wall with one window and one door and tile floor below. In between scenes, furniture and set pieces whiz on to the stage and then off again, transforming the space into Greg's house, the warehouse where they work, the mall food court and a baseball field. Reasons moves right along, never feeling tiresome or boring. And with a fun score accompanying the scene changes like a really good movie soundtrack does, Reasons adopts a fresh, movie-like quality to the production. For all of the ways that this play brilliantly utilizes its theatrical resources, it really does feel like a movie in many ways.

It's beyond refreshing to see unique stories told on stage, especially about young adults in the present. That is a genre seldom explored by work that makes it all the way to Broadway, and that could be a direct correlation between the general Broadway audience and the material. Those of you who fit into the age group that reasons delves into seriously need to see this show–it's for you, and it's freaking awesome that it gets to have a Broadway production. And even if you're not in your 20s or 30s, you can relate, you've been there, and you should definitely check out LaBute's newest play.

(reasons to be pretty plays at the Lyceum Theatre, 149 West 45th Street. Performances are Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday through Saturday at 8pm, Wednesday and Saturday at 2pm and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are $31.50 - $111.50. Call 212.239.6200 or visit Check for discount codes. Visit for more show info.)

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