photo: Joan Marcus
I usually like Neil LaBute's plays but he has, of course, had his share of bummers. None yet that I have either seen or read, however, to rival Reasons To Be Pretty, a woefully thin and unfocused effort in which LaBute aims to depict a main male character who matures emotionally past the playwright's typical testosterone-pumped overgrown adolescents. (The character gets a best bud who more than picks up that slack: the guy's misogyny and duplicity are so over the top that he plays like a failed parody of a LaBute man.) The main character's revelations near the end of the play, spelled out for us in a direct address monologue which unthinkably begins with "So what have I learned from all this?", aren't any more insightful than "beauty is subjective". The play manages to be banal, superficial and aggressively repellent all at once, and also features one of the weakest monologues I have heard in some time. (It's about the hardship of being physically beautiful, which turns out to be that guys might try to hit on you in the supermarket.) Committed performances by Alison Pill and Thomas Sadoski provide an occasional illusion of depth, but the material is skin-deep.