note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Sheila Barth
When I saw SpeakEasy Stage Company’s fabulous production of Neil LaBute’s poignant play, “Fat Pig,” a few years ago, it was moving. However, in LaBute’s 2009 Tony nominated contemporary drama, “Reasons to be Pretty,” the play’s premise isn’t strong enough to be valid.
This production gets off on a wrong foot, with twentysomething Steph (Angie Jepson), who greets her weary boyfriend Greg ( Southborough native Andy MacDonald) with a foul-mouthed tirade. She stomps on the bed, throws furniture and any other object within reach, screams, shrieks, and accuses him, carrying on hysterically. And what, pray tell, did her unsuspecting, easygoing, factory worker boyfriend do that caused her to become so enraged?
Steph’s best friend Carly (former Miss Massachusetts Danielle Muehlen) told her when she was in another room, she overheard Greg tell her husband, Kent, that Steph was regular-looking. She added Greg agreed with Kent that Steph isn’t as pretty as new girl Crystal at the factory. What Steph refused to listen to is that Greg also said he liked Steph as she is and wouldn’t change her for the world. Instead, she fumes, packs, and storms out of there as though he called her a five-bagger. Obviously, Steph has self-image problems because she isn’t pretty, but she’s not ugly, either.
Director Paul Melone drags out that opening tantrum so long, Steph appears volatile, unhinged. Thus begins the one-act, almost two-hour story of two intertwined couples and their relationships gone bad. After Angie Jepson’s explosive, over-the-top tantrum, the play has several enjoyable scenes. It’s a likable, breezy superficial look at today’s male-female relationships and their fluidity.
Eric Levenson’s minimalist set, primarily a factory break room, allows the audience to focus on the four characters.
Easygoing Greg, who likes to read American classic books during his break, works with his narcissistic, shallow buddy, Kent, and Carly, a pretty security guard.
Carly insists she did the right thing by calling Steph; but she’s unaware that even though her husband admires Carly’s looks, he also likes Crystal’s looks, and is carrying on a torrid affair with her.
Although Greg misses Steph and tries to get her back, he’s passive, taking each day at a time. When he meets Steph in the mall, she derides him callously, with a ridiculous, hateful, spiteful list of things she claims she dislikes about him, mostly putdowns of his physical and facial characteristics.
When he runs into Steph again, a few months later, she has changed. She’s dressing prettier, looks prettier, and is dating somebody else. Even later, she claims she loved Greg and didn’t want to leave him, yet she’s engaged to her new boyfriend whom she claims adores her.
The play climaxes with Kent and Greg in an out-and-out fight on the ball field. Greg has had enough of Kent’s shenanigans and beats the hell out of him. Worcester’s Burt Grinstead as Kent is so convincing here, we inwardly cheer when he gets what he deserves.
Empowered, Greg decides to improve his lifestyle, while Carly and Kent’s marriage crumbles.
BOX INFO:Neil LaBute’s one-act, 1-3/4 hour controversial drama, appearing through April 2 with SpeakEasy Stage Company, Calderwood Pavilion Center for the Arts, Roberts Studio Theatre, 527 Tremont St., South End, Boston. Performances are Wednesday, Thursday, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 4,8 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m. Tickets are $30-$55; senior, student, ages 25-under, discounts. Call 617-933-8600 or visit www.SpeakEasyStage.com.