By Kimberly Ortiz
Four young friends and lovers who become dissatisfied with each other and their lives are the focus of. Reasons to be Pretty, the contemporary American play by Neil LaBute. The play will run in the Bart Luedeke Center (BLC) Theater April 9-13 under the direction of Miriam Mills, associate professor of theater.
The wider theme focuses on society’s obsession with beauty and physical appearance.
“The play deals with the issue of how we, in our society, confront the issue of ‘pretty,’” said Mills. “How important pretty is to our world, and what happens to our world when we are told that we are not pretty.”
Set in a present day and age, Reasons to be Pretty’s intense opening scene mentally prepares the audience for what is about to ensue. Kent and Greg are hanging out at Kent’s house talking about a girl at the office who is “pretty.”
Greg says to Kent, “I really love my girlfriend, but she’s just regular looking — not really pretty — but I wouldn’t trade her for anything.” Kent’s wife, Carly, overhears the conversation, immediately calls Greg’s girlfriend, Stephanie, and tells her what Greg said. The play then opens with a 12-minute argument between Stephanie and Greg.
The production has aspects of both comedy and drama, and viewers should be prepared to hear extremely harsh language.
“It is not for the faint of heart,” said Mills. “People need to be prepared that this ain’t Our Town. It’s not a safe, little, sweet play — although there are moments that are quite sweet in the play.”
Patton says audiences can expect a show with personal feel.
“With such a small cast, the audience gets to know and fall in love with each character,” Patton said. “They will laugh, they may cry, and they will hopefully leave the show asking questions of why body image and beauty play such a big part in our lives today.”
Mills also agrees that this concept of beauty is not only an interpersonal issue, but a societal issue that should be addressed. She said that she wants the audience to see that the author, LaBute, has something to say.
“There’s nothing safe with this play,” said Mills. “It’s a hard, rough play. I want them to feel on some level — assaulted. I think you’ll see that this will get into the audience’s personal space. We break the fourth wall, and we have very loud music.”
The fourth wall, the imaginary barrier between the actors and the audience, allows the audience to look into a scene. In order to break this, the actors step out into the audience space, according to Mills.
“We have a platform that’s in front of the apron, and the four actors at different times step out and speak to the audience directly, therefore breaking the reality of the play,” said Mills. “Hopefully it will bring the audience even closer into the story line, so they become part of the story.”
Mills hopes that audiences will be able to consider superficiality and how dangerous it is. According to Mills, since the show’s main characters involve couples, the play is relatable when it comes to being in a relationship.
“I think you’re going to look at the fight between this couple, and if you don’t relate to this fight, you’ve never been in a relationship,” Mills said. “The men are going to side with the guy and the women are going side with Stephanie. If you go to the play with your boyfriend or girlfriend, you’re going to leave being a little pissed at each other.”
Patton’s role of Carly mainly deals with the surface level of her physical appearance.
“She’s that girl with the great face that most people don’t take the time to get to know past her physical features,” Patton said. “She’s this object, something that people can’t help but look at. It’s all society sees.”
This is the main theme of the play that questions why society places so much emphasis on looks.
“There needs to come a time when we value things that are worth valuing — character, kindness, compassion, inner beauty, intelligence — rather than arm candy,” said Mills. “I think it’ll be extremely eye-opening for people.”
Patton also agrees that her character realizes the superficiality of having a pretty face.
“Carly is aware that she’s beautiful,” Patton said. “She’s used that beauty to get her things in the past, but Carly realizes she needs more. Carly is more than just a face. She’s a very strong character and I hope audiences will see that.”
Mills thinks that LaBute does a wonderful job addressing the issue of societal standards through the physicality and raw emotion of the play.
“I believe you’re going to be stunned by this play,” said Mills. “I don’t think you’re going to expect a play to be as personal as this one will be. This play is personal — very, very personal.”
Printed in the 4/9/14 edition