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Broadway Review

Reasons to Be Pretty

After a run Off-Broadway last year, this production of Reasons to Be Pretty marks Neil LaBute's Broadway debut. Why has it taken so long for the prolific playwright to find his way to the Main Stem? Putting aside economic factors, the main reason is probably his savage tone. Generally his characters rip each other apart in the relationship wars, but here he at least attempts a reconciliation between the sexes. Also, as LaBute notes in the program, "I've written about a lot of men who are really little boys at heart, but Greg, the protagonist in this play, just might be one of the few adults I've ever tackled."
When Greg casually mentions that he finds his girlfriend Steph's face just "regular" to his alpha-male pal Kent and it gets back to her, their fragile union is shattered. The seemingly trivial incident sends shock waves through Greg's slacker existence, causing him to re-evaluate all his life decisions. Through the resulting series of confrontations, LaBute examines our obsession with physical appearance and the refusal of many American males to grow up.
Off-Broadway, under Terry Kinney's hyperrealistic direction, Reasons to Be Pretty had the feel of a documentary. It seemed as if we were watching a surveillance tape from the break room of a Costco-type warehouse, which is where most of the action is set (designer David Gallo accurately re-creates a tacky suburban world of malls, chain stores, and apartment complexes). In the transition to Broadway, there have been cast changes and script tightening — with mixed results. Thomas Sadoski as Greg remains the play's rock. His stumbling journey to manhood forms the through-line, and the actor documents each step with detailed attention in a multilayered performance. Marin Ireland replaces Alison Pill as Steph, and she matches her predecessor's intensity. Piper Perabo has deepened her characterization of Kent's insecure wife, Carly, who knows she's a fox but fears that her looks are all she has. Steven Pasquale gives a caricatured reading of the brutish Kent, lacking the veracity Pablo Schreiber brought to the role.
That may be due to LaBute's cutting of monologues in which the characters revealed their attitudes about their inner psyches and outer beings to the audience. Some called these speeches unnecessary, but Off-Broadway they gave the play a richness it now lacks. We could see deeper into the lives of these blue-collar combatants; it was almost like reading a complex novella. Yes, fiction and drama are two vastly different forms, but in the previous incarnation, LaBute combined the best qualities of both.
Still, the play remains a compelling look at hardscrabble lives, shallow perceptions, and the struggle for maturity. There are plenty of reasons to see Reasons.

Presented by Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Gary Goddard Entertainment, Ted Snowdon, Doug Niven/Erica Lynn Schwartz, Ronald Frankel/Bat-Barry Productions, Kathleen Seidel, Kelpie Arts, Jam Theatricals, and Rachel Helson/Heather Provost at the Lyceum Theatre, 149 W. 45th St., NYC. April 2-June 14. Tue., 7 p.m.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Wed. and Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. (212) 239-6200, (800) 432-7250, or Telecharge. Casting by Telsey + Company.

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