Reasons To Be Pretty

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

17/08/2011 - 27/08/2011

Production Details

Two Birds One Stone productions present Neil LaBute’s play Reasons to be Pretty.

Narcissism, sex, dominance, jealousy and rage: the battle of the sexes is on.

The Basement Theatre is proud to present Neil Labute’s three-time Tony Award nominated play reasons to be pretty.

Society’s fixation on physical beauty is tackled head on in this brutal and exhilarating work, which centres on four working-class young friends and lovers who grow increasingly dissatisfied with their dead-end lives – and each other.  

Sometimes it’s best to admit when you are wrong. Other times it’s better to just keep your mouth shut. Greg does neither. When confronted by his girlfriend Steph about a comment he has made about her face Greg firmly implants both of his feet in his mouth in a vain attempt to save his relationship.

Not helping his cause is his friend Kent, the ultimate womanizer whose only concern is rooting the new girl at work and not getting caught by his wife Carly.

Can Greg repair his relationship or is his friendship with Kent doomed to fail him?

Basement Theatre,
Lower Greys Avenue, Auckland
Wednesday, 17 August 2011 – Saturday, 27 August 2011
(No show 22nd)
Tickets $25 or $22.50 for 6+

Andrew Munro
Delaney Tabron
Dwayne Cameron
Nicola Vuleta

Characters well realised

Review by Stephen Austin 18th Aug 2011

Neil LaBute’s writing always puts me in mind of a younger fresher David Mamet, taking everyday conversations of urbane well-read blue-collar types and snatches of overheard everyday dialogue and imbuing them with huge significance and piquancy while keeping them as truly intimate as they might have been when first discovered. A heavy peppering of profanity always helps to keep his work on its toes too.

Reasons to be Pretty starts from a moment we all know and dread: saying something off-hand in the heat of the moment about a loved one about the way they look, which is taken fully out of context.

In this instance it leads to the complete unravelling of a relationship and twenty-something Greg (Andrew Munro) must try to keep it together when his long-time girlfriend Steph (Delany Tabron) draws the line at this misstep. This starts to encroach on their friendships with his workmates and friends, snide jock Kent (Dwayne Cameron) and down-to-earth Carly (Nicola Vuleta), who are having a number of relationship difficulties of their own.

The snappy dialogue is given heaps of attack from the get-go and rarely lets up for the whole performance. When it does, much of it is close to barely audible, even in the intimacy of the Basement space, as the characters pull back from the emotional weight of the situation.

The cast all realise the relationships superbly and do make the most of LaBute’s thick layers of swearing. The scenes that stood out were those of frank honesty across partnerships between Munro and Vuleta, which were few but highly satisfying.

The choice to keep accents local, instead of LaBute’s local American cadence did not always succeed. Ebb and flow of the script does call for the rhythm of New York voices to make it fully orchestrate properly. Also, many of the cultural references are a little lost on a New Zealand audience; those that are changed seem discordant with the tone of the dialogue and slightly skew the world of the play.

Set design is elegantly versatile, with a pair of crumpled white curtains the length of the stage on runners serving to set mood and location. The episodic nature of the script means that scene changes are executed with little fuss, but it would have been nice to have found a way to make the flow from scene to scene a little easier, perhaps without the murky dips in lighting states between. Mike Havoc’s warpy urban choices for setting music are somewhat effective to help carry these moments though. 

Directed by Daniel Cowley, this production realises LaBute’s characters well, but could have done with a little spit and polish on its approach to creating a world outside its central social character arcs.

Still, the main relationships are what makes the heart of this play tick and the four actors on stage work very hard even to the last, looking like they are all keen to keep going and almost disappointed it is over so fast by curtain call.    
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