Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010

Studio Theatre As Break Room

Renaissance Theaterworks Returns To A Factory Break Room for Its Latest Production

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Renaissance Theaterworks’ latest provocative drama opened last night--Neil LaBute’s Reasons To Be Pretty. It’s the third of three darkly comic dramas LaBute has written about body image—this one cutting to the heart of what beauty is—every one of the four characters seems to be struggling with the title in one form or another. Renaissance has now staged all three of them . . . The Shape of Things (my personal favorite of the three) in ’04, Fat Pig in ’08 and now Reasons. The three look at the nature of human beauty from three distinctly different perspectives. As a conclusion of the thematic trilogy, Reasons is a remarkably abrasive and confrontational drama.

Part of the tension comes together in a factory break room—for the second time in two seasons, Renaissance brings the drama of a factory break room to the intimate Studio Theatre space at the Broadway Theatre Center. Last season’s Blackbird found Brian Mani and Carrie Coon played characters struggling through the fallout of a particularly negative relationship. Carrie Coon returns to Renaissance for Reasons, but the bulk of the tension in the break room this time around is between character played by the rest of the ensemble.

The setting in Blackbird was cramped and messy—something of a prison between the two characters. In Reasons, a decidedly less cramped break room designed by Jill Lynn Lyons plays host to deceptively casual-looking drama between idle characters. In Reasons, those idle moments between long stretches on the factory line allow for hazy social connections to build a palpable emotional tension. It’s all very indirect—it’s a brief rest between active moments in a factory shift, but there’s a great deal going on here. Between Reasons and Blackbird, I want to stay as far away as possible from a factory break room.

Renaissance Theaterworks’ production of Reasons To Be Pretty runs through October 24th.  A review of the show runs in this week’s Shepherd-Express.  

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