It’s probably no surprise that Neil LaBute’s first true Broadway production is a winner. The filmmaker/playwright has a had a number of high profile productions on the stage, from Fat Pig to The Shape of Things (which he remade into a film), and has alternated between the worlds of film and theater. However, his recent film output has stunk up the place with lackluster contributions such as The Wicker Man remake and Lakeview Terrace. His latest play, though, is terrific. Funny, profane, and brisk, Reasons To Be Pretty is a jolt of entertainment.
Thomas Sadoski and Marin Ireland play Greg and Steph, a couple that launches the play with a towering inferno of a fight. Steph has heard from their friend Carly (Piper Perabo) that Greg referred to her face as “regular” when compared to an attractive new co-worker. Greg and Steph scream, yell, and curse in what may actually be the production’s weakest scene. The yelling and slamming are a bit much, especially at the beginning of a story, but it soon gives way to an involving and smart progression. Back at the Costco-style food warehouse at which they work, Greg and his buddy Kent (Steven Pasquale) riff on the unpredictable and frustrating nature of women. Thankfully, LaBute saves his usual mysognist threads in their exchange, and instead evokes something more human and natural. Plus, the women come out on top this time. One particular scene, when Steph humiliates Greg at a mall food court by listing all his flaws, is more hilarious than horrifying.
Kent is married to Carly, but doesn’t mind cheating on her and manipulating her to get what he wants. Same goes for his relationship with Greg. But, Kent is nowhere near the vile presence of LaBute’s characters Chad (Aaron Eckhart) from In The Company Of Men or Cary (Jason Patric) from Your Friends & Neighbors. Kent is still a bad guy, but he gives the play a certain weight that keeps you fixated. LaBute moves ahead a few months (each set change is matched with rock songs by Interpol, Radiohead, Foo Fighters, etc.) as Greg and Steph try to get on with their lives, while Kent and Carly wind up pregnant (Kent’s still cheating). Greg and Steph, who have a run-in at each other’s dinner date, are still in love but they let the little details get in the way. Kent and Carly are in love, but that’s because they ignore the little details that could rip them apart. And, that seems to be LaBute’s commentary: little details in physical attraction are what people hold onto dearly, and sometimes that drives perfect couples away or imperfect couples closer together.
Reasons To Be Pretty just began its run at the Lyceum Theatre on West 45th Street.