City Adventure: reasons to be pretty
After our great conversation with Elisabeth Lagerlöf and Julia Nish-Lapidus about their inspiration for participating in the LaBute Cycle’s reasons to be pretty, we were excited to actually attend the performance last week and see everything we spoke about come together on stage.
While the title of the play has a large emphasis on being pretty, reasons to be pretty doesn’t directly explore our beauty standards, but how we let these beauty standards affect our relationships (romantic and platonic). The play puts these relationships between four people under the microscope after one person’s flippant comment about his girlfriend’s face brings everyone’s insecurities, secrets and desires to the surface. It analyzes how physical attractiveness plays a role in the relationship and asks a lot of hard questions that a lot of people aren’t brave enough to say in everyday conversation.
After having such a candid conversation with Elisabeth and Julia, we both felt a little proud seeing them up on stage in the roles of Carly and Stephanie. We think every woman has walked in these character’s shoes at one point or another, which created such a strong connection to both the characters and actors. Each character was intentionally overdeveloped into a certain stereotype — Steph being incredibly insecure and kind of carrying that over the top a bit, while Carly seems to thrive in stirring up the drama. We teetered between trying to sympathize with the characters and trying not to straight up dislike them. It takes a strong presence on stage to provoke those changing feelings.
Their counterparts, Steve Boleantu as sarcastically lackadaisical Greg and James Wallis as the stereotypical ‘bro’ Kent are just as engaging. Wallis, who is actually the director and stepped into this role last minute, is great as Kent. He puts such enthusiasm into the role and really gets under your skin by the end of the show. Sitting front row, it was hard not to reach out and smack him across the face a couple of times with some of the things he was saying.
But it’s Boleantu that really grabbed our attention, as the play ends up circling around onto him. He’s the one who starts everything spiraling; he’s the one who ultimately wraps it all up. Bolenatu is great in the role. His dry, comedic timing is perfect, his personal reflections at the end really fit his character, not fully committing to any lesson he learned through all this, kind of just rolling with the punches. He had kind of that underdog feel to him, you couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for him being surrounded by everything that was happening and root for him in the end.
You really get the feeling that the cast are as close of friends as their characters are supposed to be, they work really well together. The chemistry between the couples and the friendships are incredibly strong and there’s such emotion put into some of the heavier scenes. The arguments are hard to watch because they’re so well done. You feel like you’re watching your own friends go through something terrible, or even worse, you feel like you’re watching your own lives coming apart in front of you.
Ultimately, this play raised a lot of feelings. The content really hit close to home for both of us and there was a lot of anger and frustration about some of the things that were said and some of the ways the characters reacted or interacted with each other. But that’s the point. You should leave the performance with frustrations. You should try to think more about how you think about these topics and how your actions or words might be affecting someone else. These are important experiences that will have a huge impact on your life and your relationships with those in it and watching it all play out on stage in front of you will leave you with a lot of questions. And feels.