Peggy Sue Dunigan

Plenty of “Reasons” to get to Renaissance Theaterworks

By - Oct 4th, 2010 04:00 am

Georgina McKee and Steve Wojtas in Neil Labute’s “Reasons To Be Pretty”. Photos by Jean Bernstein.

Beautiful, pretty. Unattractive, ugly. What do these words really convey about a person, especially a woman? In Reasons To Be Pretty, the answer releases a torrent of foul language during an argument between a young couple where the woman eventually walks away in silence.

This scene electrifies the very first moments of Renaissance Theaterworks’ production of Neil LaBute’s Reasons third play in a trilogy on surface appearances. The title’s premise becomes immediately apparent when the boyfriend admits admiring a beautiful woman to his friend, then mentions that his longtime girlfriend “only had a regular face,” a small step removed from implying she was unattractive.

This electric dialogue sets the stage for Renaissance Theaterworks opening production in their 18th season when the company presents a third LaBute play based on society’s preoccupation with physical beauty. In this new script first performed in 2008, the theme revolves around ‘pretty,’ which Webster’s dictionary defines as “the conventional attributes of beauty.”

LaBute’s script depicts four young adults at their worst, children playing in an adult world. Greg (Lenny Banovez) and Stephanie (Carrie Coon), depict the young couple who argue abusively, while Kent (Steve Wojtas) and Carly (Georgina McKee), act the wedded couple whose relationship centers around each other’s physiques. Crystal, the astonishingly gorgeous woman who transforms their lives, never appears and is only imagined, as the action both comically and dramatically unfolds from the lives of these emotionally stunted personalities.

Renaissance assembles a quartet of actors who validate Reasons with conviction, with all except Coon appearing in their company debut. Banovez and Coon provide the explosive connection between Greg and Stephanie with a chemistry that adds affection, believability and dimension to the volatile relationship and the play’s resolution. Wojtas inhabits Kent with immature machismo that adversely affects his marriage with Carly and friendship with Greg. As the final scenes unravel between first Greg and Kent, then Greg and Stephanie, the characters must finally grow up and become wiser in an unkind world.

Greg (Lenny Banovez) and Stephanie (Carrie Coon) in “Reasons To Be Pretty.”

While the riveting performance evolves over two acts and two hours under co-founder Susan Fete’s energizing direction, the play uncovers a deeper, more compelling meaning than the superficiality of physical appearance. Words do hurt and admitting truths or accepting lies determines an individual’s true character, revealed by what a person says and the resulting actions. This truth transcends the obsession with worrying about one’s reflection in the mirror and underscores the differences between being considered pretty and essentially beautiful.

Renaissance Theaterworks produces a thoroughly enthralling evening that encourages the audience to respond with indignation, offense and often laughter. Perhaps in the end, Reasons To Be Pretty suggest that lasting beauty comes from within and grows more fascinating over time – similar to Renaissance Theaterworks’ dramatic performances, which challenge audiences to experience so much more than merely pretty entertainment.

Renaissance Theaterworks presents Reasons To Be Pretty through October 24. For information or tickets, visit or call The Broadway Theatre Center at 414-291-7800.

Categories: A/C Feature 1, Theater

0 thoughts on “Plenty of “Reasons” to get to Renaissance Theaterworks”

  1. Anonymous says:

    this was a very fun review to read. I heard the ad on WPR- and now seeing this review, I am very interested in seeing this production. Thank you.

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