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Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010

Renaissance Offers ‘Reasons to Be Pretty’

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Renaissance Theaterworks opens its season this week with Reasons to Be Pretty, the final chapter in contemporary playwright Neil LaBute’s thematic trilogy about society’s obsession with physical appearance.

A few local companies produced the first installment in the trilogy, The Shape of Things. More of an exploration into the nature of manipulation, passion and communication, The Shape of Things was followed by Fat Pig, a play that focused almost exclusively on body image. Fat Pig, which Renaissance produced a couple of years ago,dug into the superficial layers of our cultural notion of beauty by telling the story of an overweight woman dating an attractive, successful man.

In Reasons to Be Pretty, which debuted in New York in 2008 to generally positive reviews, LaBute explores the complexity of human beauty and society through a group of young, working-class people as anger turns to aggression. The serrated end of the English language cuts its way throughout the script, and there’s physical aggression as well. More so than the first two plays in LaBute’s trilogy, Reasons to Be Pretty shows the ugly side of human behavior.

The beautiful thing about seeing a dark drama like this in an intimate studio theater is the intensity. The Studio Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center allows just enough distance from the acting to keep the audience comfortable, while maintaining a provocative and unsettling proximity to the onstage aggression.

Renaissance co-founder Susan Fete directs a cast of four young actors, including rising talents Steve Wojtas and Lenny Banovez along with the well-established talent of Carrie Coon and Georgina McKee. Fete also directed Renaissance’s 2008 run of Fat Pig. In that production, Fete did a remarkable job of orchestrating the drama’s discomfort and bringing the precision of LaBute’s language to the stage. If Fete and company can do the same with Reasons to Be Pretty, they should have another hit on their hands.

Renaissance Theaterworks’ Reasons to Be Pretty runs Oct. 1-24 at the Broadway Theatre Center’s Studio Theatre.



Theater Happenings

  • First Stage Children’s Theater opens a play for veryyoung audiences with its adaptation of Aesop’s Fables by British playwright Mike Kenny. Suitable for ages 3-6, the play runs Oct. 2-17 at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, 325 W. Walnut St.


  • The Milwaukee Rep presents the Milwaukee premiere of My Name Is Asher Lev, a drama about an artist torn between family, tradition and craft. The show runs Sept. 29-Nov. 14 at the Stiemke Studio Theater.
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