Steph (Amber Tamblyn) and Greg (Shawn Hatosy) are having a heated argument. Steph is furious with Greg for something he said to his coworker Kent (Nick Gehlfuss) that was overheard by Kent's wife Carly (Alicia Witt). Kent and Greg had been discussing a girl with a pretty face, and Greg described Steph as having a "normal" face. She's so hurt by this that she breaks up with Greg. When Kent starts cheating on the pregnant Carly, Greg wonders if he should tell her Carly and put her relationship at risk as well.
Tamblyn gets up a good head of steam as the outraged Steph, but the character as written is unfortunately a one-note aria of overwrought rage. Hatosy grounds the play as much as is possible, and his low-key performance is effective, particularly in the later scenes with Carly where Greg isn't certain what to do. Gehlfuss exudes cocky confidence as the bullying Kent, and Witt does a lot with a little as Carly, especially in a speech where she details in a matter-of-fact way the problems with being attractive.
Director Randall Arney's pacing seems unnecessarily slowthere is no reason this play should be two and a half hours long. In some ways, this work represents LaBute attempting to get away from his earlier (yet undeniably more effective) shows about men and women simply being horrible to each other by depicting a guy trying to become a better person, and that's laudable. However, the consistent criticism that has dogged LaBute about writing women as stereotypes hasn't changed much here: Steph is one long screech of insulted vanity.
Reasons to Be Pretty plays at the Geffen Playhouse through August 31, 2014. For tickets and information, see www.geffenplayhouse.com.
The Geffen Playhouse presents Reasons to Be Pretty by Neil LaBute. Directed by Randall Arney. Scenic Design Takeshi Kata; Lighting Design Daniel Ionazzi; Sound Design Richard Woodbury; Costume Design David Mickelsen; Production Stage Manager Young Ji.
- Terry Morgan