reasons to be pretty
This month the Philadelphia Theatre Company offers a fascinating modern play, "reasons to be pretty" by Neil Labute. It is the third in a trilogy of plays relating to physical appearance and its effects on our lives, and possesses a brilliantly current feel to it. Often "reasons" feels more like an exciting overheard set of conversations more than theatre, which I mean as a compliment. This play has an exceptionally easy and natural flow to it and addresses an easily relatable topic in a smart fashion.
"reasons to be pretty" focuses on two couples, one of which is married and another couple who are still dating. One thing they clearly have in common from the beginning of the play is simple: they don’t understand each other at all.
The show takes off almost immediately into a fiery argument that more or less seems to last the entire show, all based on an off-hand, casual comment about one of the women having a plain face. The plot begins to unfold around much more than superficial insults, though.
All of the characters in "reasons to be pretty" are not only insecure about their appearance but also frustrated with their low income jobs, increasingly dead-end relationships and the crushing conclusions these things bring to one’s life.
With prolonged dissatisfaction in any of these parts of our lives, discord is guaranteed to rise. When you throw all of this turmoil together, you get the fascinating situation in which this play finds its characters.
What truly brings this production to life is seamless direction from Maria Mileaf and impassioned performances by all four of the actors. Not unlike "Closer" and "Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf" before it, "reasons to be pretty" finds its strength in the anger of its characters and its reward in their vulnerabilities. Incredibly nuanced moments from everyone involved, the play moves past simply a set of arguments and speaks more to what lies beneath all of the simmering anger.
"reasons to be pretty" is yet another rewarding show by the Philadelphia Theatre Company and is a worthy close to their exceptional season. The material is exciting and fresh, the performances intricate and humane, and the flow of the show is one of the best I have ever had the pleasure of attending. I highly recommend you end this theatre season with this emotionally exhilarating play.