Reasons To Be Pretty - Review

 

An impossibly romantic play about romantic impossibility is how this four—hander of young working-class misunderstanding through language spins out. LaBute’s trilogy on our obsession with appearances here uses a comment on it as the germ
infecting lives right from the start in a blazing row we’re pitched in the middle of: the break-up of a loving couple, both infected with surface value—systems.

There’s just one caveat that hits you straight off. Despite their capacity to articulate awkwardly, these characters are all far too articulate in their awkwardness to convince us that even these east—coast workers are quite what they seem. Greg, the character who grows and who’s always reading classic early American or British literature, is the one who makes the gaffe about his girlfriend’s face duly reported back that ends their relationship in this firecracker of a row, all overlapping challenge, misunderstanding and even near-blows that become real in their next encounter.

Fintan Shevlin well displays the gawky, intelligent Greg, believably so since he speaks so fast he trips himself up a few times. Steph who wilfully misunderstands him, in prising out what he’s said — she’s been compared off-handedly as regular-featured, not pretty to an off—stage beauty who creates later havoc. Steph flays a complete confession then leaves Greg wincing.

Loud-mouthed domineering Kent - a masterly performance by Scott Roberts - is married to Steph’s friend Carly who reported Greg’s gaffe in the first place. Greg has two reasons to dislike Carly, then, the second being that she grills him suspecting (rightly) he knows something about Kent. Kent’s bedded 23—year-old cutey Crystal who catalysed the disastrous comparison with Steph in the first place.

So it spools out, through meetings, confrontations, always in differing duets till Greg shows maturity by blessing Steph’s affluent life with offstage Tim, standing up to Kent and finally insisting Carly go home and of course find Kent with Crystal This sets the last scene, bittersweet farewell.

Greg and Steph come as close you want to get back together. It’s no spoiler then that LaBute wrote a sequel five years on in 2013, since he too intuits unfinished business in this Mamet—like super-articulate inarticulacy. Pamela Sian Evans acid—etches a fine job of Steph’s anger and soft regrets, Jen Ley’s more hard-boiled Carly sofiens to a tendresse for Greg that might blossom (folks, it does in the next play).

Not plot-driven, these eight tableaux turn on talk; there aren’t surprises. LaBute’s gift surprises through the shock of the ordinary, twists in life and torsions in speech pattern. We care about the four characters: aspirational Greg and Steph (more university types, Greg’s eventual destination), the other two blue—collar — literally, Carly’s blue-collar uniform she feels enhances her considerable attraction. Tim McQuillen-Wright allows them to spool out ending with Greg’s poignant final rebellious two fingers.

Simon Jenner