There are some things every guy should know: When your girlfriend asks if those jeans make her ass look fat, you say no. When she gets a new haircut, even if it’s ugly, you tell her she looks great. And when you’re drunk and chatting with your best friend, don’t admit that you think your girlfriend isn’t pretty — especially when her best friend is nearby. This is a lesson that reasons to be pretty‘s hero Greg learns the hard way.
Crescent Stage, a company comprised of College of Charleston alumni and faculty, presents this Neil LaBute play, the third in a trilogy that includes 2001’s The Shape of Things and 2004’s Fat Pig. All of them explore physical appearance in some way; reasons to be pretty in particular conveys the familiar message that beauty is more than skin deep, wrapped in a package of LaBute’s signature biting wit and dialogue.
The play opens with a scathing fight between Greg (Paul Whitty) and his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend Steph (Katie Huard), who’s just heard the news of what he really thinks of her. Feelings are hurt, expletives are spewed, and the relationship ends.
“It’s kind of like you’re already going down that first hill of a roller coaster,” says Paul Rolfes, an adjunct theater professor at CofC who plays Greg’s best friend Kent. “It starts out full force with them in a really heated argument about what he said and why he said it. She leaves him, and it moves into this transition of friendship between the four characters. Everything changes. And everyone ends up in a different place at the end of the two hours.”
Steph strikes back with a public outburst at her ex, listing all of his shortcomings. This humiliation opens his eyes, and he works to figure out how he got to where he is. He examines the relationship between Kent (a more typically misogynistic LaBute character) and his hot wife Carly (Blaire Brooks), who is Steph’s best friend. And unlike characters in some of LaBute’s plays, Greg actually seems to learn a lesson.
Rolfes says the company chose the play because of its contemporary nature. “We all love Neil LaBute,” he says. “This play is interesting in that it’s more of a contemporary piece, and that’s where we want to take the company. It’s edgy, and I think the topic matter is fairly relevant too with everybody doing Botox and all these plastic surgeries.
“It’s very funny, but there are all those touching moments where you can kind of sympathize with the characters,” he adds. “I think it’ll leave people guessing or have people talking about how they feel about each character involved.”
The Crescent Stage collective — which also includes Joy Vandervort-Cobb (who directs reasons), David Lee Nelson, and Jamie Smithson — has been unofficially producing shows at Piccolo Spoleto since 2007. After Keeping Watch (2007) and Lobby Hero (2008), they decided to make things official and founded the company in 2009. Their first performance under the Crescent Stage name was Art that same year. The play was about three friends struggling to understand why one of them bought an audaciously expensive piece of artwork, and it starred Whitty, Smithson, and Rolfes.
If you haven’t heard Crescent Stage’s name around town, that’s because many of the members are touring or live in New York, leaving Piccolo the only time they can get together. However, plans are in the works for a mid-season show.
“We’re working on getting our 501(c)(3) to start having fundraisers and such to gather money,” Rolfes says. “We want to become an established place here in Charleston.”
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