Peggy Sue Dunigan

Renaissance “Reasons to Be Pretty” more than skin-deep

By - Oct 4th, 2010 01:14 am

Can’t we just get along? In “Reasons to Be Pretty,” no. Coon and Banovez slug it out.

Beautiful, pretty, unattractive, ugly⎯what do these words really convey about a person, most likely a woman?

The answer begins in torrent of foul language during an argument of a young couple. The woman eventually walks away in silence. This scene engages the audience from the very first moments of Neil LaBute’s Reasons to Be Pretty, the opener of Renaissance Theatreworks’ 18th season. The trigger for the argument occurred earlier, when the boyfriend admired a beautiful woman and noted to a friend that his long-time girlfriend “only had a regular face.” LaBute’s 2008 play is about societal preoccupation with physical beauty.

The four characters represent young adults at their worst, as children playing in an adult world. Boyfriend Greg (Lenny Banovez) and girlfriend Stephanie (Carrie Coon) argue abusively. The marriage of Kent (Steve Wojtas) and Carly (Georgina McKee) centers around their physiques. LaBute left a fifth character, the astonishingly gorgeous Crystal, who transforms their lives, to our imaginations. Both comedy and drama arise from the four stunted personalities.

The actors — all but Coon new to RTW — validate LaBute’s play with conviction. Banovez and Coon connect explosively. Greg and Stephanie add chemistry, affection, credibility and depth to the volatile relationships and play’s resolution. Wojtas inhabits Kent with immature machismo that adversely affects his marriage with Carly and friendship with Greg. When the relationships unravel in final scenes, first with Banovez and Wotjas and then Banovez and Coon, bittersweet realities demand that the characters to grow up and become wiser in an unkind world.

Director Susan Fete drew riveting performances that went deeper than questions regarding physical appearance. The show provokes indignation, offense and frequent laughter. Who hasn’t been stung by a comment or commented cruelly on someone’s else about their appearance?Words hurt; admitting truths or accepting lies determines and acting properly or wrongly  individual’s true character. That transcends reflections in a mirror and underscores the difference between being pretty or being beautiful in the true sense.

Renaissance Theaterworks presents Reasons for Being Pretty through Oct. 24 at the Broadway Theatre Center Studio Theatre. For information or tickets call The Broadway Theatre Center: 414-291-7800.

Categories: A/C Feature 1, Theater

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