Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Reasons To Be Pretty, Review

Reasons To Be Pretty

By Neil Labute

Reviewed by Lee Bemrose

Local on-again-off-again theatre company Mellow Yellow are on again, with their Fringe offering Reasons To Be Pretty by American scribe Neil Labute. But don't dally about – it's a short season with only a few days still to run.

Mr Labute is responsible for some pretty powerful scripts for screen and stage, usually pulling apart relationships and poking at the soft, sensitive innards of gender politics. Black comedy is his thing, and he's a writer with such an unflinching eye and ear for what makes us tick that he can make you squirm as easily as he can make you laugh.

Reasons To Be Pretty looks at our obsession with our appearance. It might not be yours or mine, but it is society's obsession. (Equally, it might well be yours and mine, or someone you know).

The play follows the relationships of four friends/workmates/partners - Steph (Steph Lee), her boyfriend Greg (Jason Schwab), Greg's workmate Kent (Sam Burns-Warr) and his girlfriend and co-worker Carly (Dayna Boase). As well as obsession with appearance, the play also examines loyalty, integrity and what binds us in relationships and friendships, and what can cause divisions.

The play starts with a pretty comical fight after Steph confronts Greg over a perceived insult. She heard that he said something less than flattering about her physical appearance, and she is livid. It's kind of comically over-the-top, yet I'm sure we can all relate; we've all be involved in arguments that mean everything at the time but seem ridiculous after the event.

That Steph takes what Greg said so much to heart seems a little unrealistic... yet this is exactly how arguments and disagreements can unfold in what can quickly become the domestic battlefield. The staging of this scene is inventive, utilising the quirkiness of the space in The Wilde to create a voyeuristic feel, as though we are overhearing a neighbour's domestic screaming match.

Greg and Kent seem thrown together rather than being real friends. Again, this often the case in the workplace. You don't have any choice in who you work with so you make the most of it. They are very different people, Greg quiet with hints of intelligence in his reading material (this could be read as affectation) and Kent being a very similar character to the one he played in this very space last year in David Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago. That is, a pretty callous, superficial Typical Macho Guy. I really want to see Burns-Warr play a different role because he does this one so well you could almost believe that he's like this in real life. He does bastard really, really well. Chappeau.

Dayna Boase as Kent's girlfriend does a good job of playing a complex character – physically beautiful (just check that sexy smirk on the poster for the show), you expect confidence, but vulnerability is just under the surface, with manipulation also not out of range.

This is not feel good theatre. It is engaging and sometimes funny, generally a little sad in the way that we and our weird little ways of dealing with each other can be sad. It is also highly recommended.

Reasons To Be Pretty is on at The Wilde, 153 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy until October 4.

No comments: