reasons to be pretty’s plot line pivots around that why-did-I-just-say-that moment that I’m sure most of us have had. But it’s out there and you can’t take it back, and an apology might get someone to forgive but forgetting is a whole other story.
In a moment of guy talk, our good-at-heart protagonist Greg tells his misogynistic best friend Kent that his girlfriend of four years may not have as good-looking a face as the new girl at the plant. When this news sprints its way back to his girlfriend, she explodes — every crack in their relationship is split wide open, every word examined under a microscope and every insecurity stripped nude.
They cannot survive this perceived betrayal and the rest of the play alternates between moments of fury, awkwardness, sadness and clarity.
Fury: The girlfriend, Steph, in a very public moment of revenge, reads a letter detailing every little bit of Greg’s physical aspects that repulse her, from his thinning hair to his gross feet and disappointing member. Or when the two friends come to bloody blows just before their baseball game and Greg realizes that they have been drifting violently apart since high school.
Awkwardness: When Steph and Greg run into each other after a while of being separated, she on her way to a first date looking more made up than ever. Steph admits: “I’m trying to look pretty,” and you realize just how deep those words wounded.
Sadness: Every time they’re shown stuck in their dead-end jobs at the plant with fluorescent lights, 15-minute breaks and jolting horns that signal the end of those breaks. Greg’s escapist reading of Po, Hawthorne, Swift and Irving get constantly interrupted by the reality of his existence.
Clarity: Greg takes it upon himself to reveal to Kent’s pregnant wife Carly that she should surprise Kent at home now, both knowing fully well that she’ll confirm her suspicions that he’s cheating on her. When Greg admits to Steph that he thinks he may have just “ruined Carly’s life” Steph assures him that she’ll survive and will be much better off in the long run.
I loved this play. It was well acted and sharply written and it was so satisfying to watch Neil Labute explore the coming of age genre with complex characters and relationships. As he shares in his preface to the play, Greg “might just be one of the few adults I’ve ever tackled.”
- Speaking of satisfying, in and out of intermissions at the Lyceum Theater they played Radiohead’s “Bodysnatchers,” Arcade Fire’s “Une Annee Sana Lumiere” and The Replacements “Unsatisfied,” three of my top songs.
- The reasons to be pretty marketing campaign is pretty damn cool. Check out the website here.
- Neil LaBute and Friends will be Monday’s Times Talk.