‘Reasons to be Pretty’ at San Jose Stage

    "I never want my audience to feel safe."

    Reasons to Be Pretty - San Jose Stage
    In Review

    In Summary

    In Summary
    • Neil LaBute’s bristling new comic drama puts a ferocious cap on a trilogy of plays that began with The Shape of Things and Fat Pig.
    • Opening night gala is Sat, Oct. 2 at San Jose Stage, tickets $20-$45.
    • Kimberly Mohne Hill directs. Robert Brewer (Greg) ,Allison F. Rich (Carly), Halsey Varady (Steph) and Will Springhorn Jr.* (Kent) star.
    Review by
    Reasons To Be Pretty at San Jose Stage Company, September 29 - October 24, 2010. Pictured (left to right): Robert Brewer* and Halsey Varady. Photo by Dave Lepori.
    Reasons To Be Pretty at San Jose Stage Company, September 29 - October 24, 2010. Pictured (left to right): Robert Brewer* and Halsey Varady. Photo by Dave Lepori.

    Reasons to be Pretty, Neil LaBute’s bristling new comic drama, opened this week at San Jose Stage and puts a ferocious cap on a trilogy of plays that began with The Shape of Things and Fat Pig (seen earlier in the Bay Area at Aurora Theatre in Berkeley: review and interview).

    America’s obsession with physical beauty is confronted headlong in this brutal and exhilarating work, in which a slip of the tongue has a tsunami effect on one man’s relationships, romantic and otherwise.

    On what a safe place means to him, playwright Neil LaBute told San Jose Stage in an interview:

    Playwright Neil Labute
    Playwright Neil Labute

    “It’s the undiscovered country. “Safe” is something different to everybody and that’s why it’s interesting. I never want my audience to feel safe — I actively work to get them in a place that isn’t so privileged, so elitist, so settled. I want them to be as actively involved in the proceedings as possible, but to remember it’s all fun and games, too — theater should be a thrill ride while it lasts, just like a good roller coaster.”

    The cast taking The Stage for Reasons to be Pretty is anything but regular.

    Robert Brewer* (Greg) returns to San Jose Stage Company, where he was previously seen as Duke in THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL and Bobby Strong in URINETOWN, THE MUSICAL. Two of Robert’s TRAILER PARK co-stars are with him again in REASONS: Allison F. Rich (Carly), and Halsey Varady (Steph), who also appeared with the Company in BEEHIVE and THE LONESOME WEST. Making his Stage Company debut is Will Springhorn Jr.* (Kent), who has performed with Berkeley Repertory Theatre, The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Magic Theatre, Marin Theatre Company and Theatre Rhinoceros.

    Director Kimberly Mohne Hill returns to San Jose Stage Company after helming last season’s THE SEAFARER. An Assistant Professor of Acting and Voice at Santa Clara University, she has directed several productions there. Costume designer Jean Cardinale returns to San Jose Stage Company, having previously designed costumes for DIRTY BLONDE, THE SEAFARER, THE PILLOWMAN, THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL, ALWAYS…PATSY CLINE, EVERY CHRISTMAS STORY EVERY TOLD and ALTAR BOYZ.

    Set designer Dylan Della Maggiora makes his professional design debut with REASONS as he continues to study theater at Santa Clara University. Sound designer Theodore J. Hulsker’s previous sound design work includes ZOMBIE! A NEW MUSICAL at Exit Theatre. This is his first production at The Stage.

    Previews of the regional premiere of REASONS TO BE PRETTY begin at The Stage, 490 South First Street, San Jose, on Wed.-Thu., Sept. 29 & 30, at 7:30 pm and Fri., Oct. 1, at 8 pm, with a Gala Opening on Saturday, Oct. 2, at 8 pm. Performances continue Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm through Oct. 24, 2010. Tickets prices range from $20 – $45. Post-show discussions follow the performances on Sunday, October 10 and Thursday, October 14.

    *Members of Actors’ Equity Association

    Follow Stark Insider on Twitter and Facebook. Join our 11,000 subscribers who read SI on tablets and smartphones on Google Newsstand. Prefer video? Watch us on Amazon Prime or subscribe to Stark Insider on YouTube, the largest arts & travel channel in San Francisco.
    • Greg

      LaBute’s gift for creating dialogue with pitch-perfect realism and authenticity puts Mamet to shame. Conversations are composed with a deceptively mundane naturalism that could cause one to overlook the keen observations being made.

      The total impact of what is really being said is largely dependent upon the ability of the actor to deliver the full resonance of the words. That being said, not all of the cast members are up to the task.

      Stephanie, who’s introduced spewing a flood of profane invective, must possess a complexity and vulnerability to engender any sympathy, let alone empathy. Despite her best efforts, Ms. Verady never quite succeeds in playing the right note.

      The remaining three players are more successfully portrayed, particularly by Robert Brewer, who brings a depth to Greg, the central character, who at first glance could easily be mistaken as ordinary.

      Will Springhorn Jr., as Greg’s friend Kent, provides the requisite testosterone filled charisma as a philandering jock, but his macho bravado would benefit from just a bit less intensity.

      Allison F. Rich, on the other hand, shines as Kent’s wife as she deftly traverses a challenging range of emotions with a wonderfully magnetic subtlety. She’s quite good.

      Notwithstanding the uneven performances, this provocative play manages to be both acerbic and sentimental. I wholeheartedly endorse spending two hours of your time supporting local theatre at its best!

      • Great review Greg. Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts on the play. Now if only Clint can get his review out ;-) …

        • Greg

          Thanks! After reading his review I think we mostly agree. Its deep cuts are all too familiar!