I went into Reasons to be Pretty not knowing what to expect. On the No Name Player’s website, it was described as a play about the “impossibility of love”. Hmmmm, what could that mean? I tried to glean something from the picture accompanying that particular description: two girls and two guys, all in their underwear, all wearing very curious expressions on their faces. One is stern, one is kind, one is shattered, one is wily. They all are staring straight at you though, as if challenging you to turn away.

As I sat in my seat in the basement of the Cathedral of Learning, as the house lights went down and the stage lights went on and the play began….I lost that particular challenge. I could not look away.

The stage, first of all, was actually pretty cool. Stage manager Kim Crawford did a marvelous job of really utilizing the small space of the Cathedral and making the most out of it. It was nice. Cozy. (And by the way, the show was a total sell out. Not an empty seat in the house.)

Okay, now on with the actual show. The premise is pretty straight forward: a couple named Steph and Greg start off the show. They’re fighting because Greg very casually, not thinking said something to the effect that his girlfriend’s face was just okay, ordinary, average. He was overheard by Steph’s friend and the friend told Steph and voila….all hell breaks loose. From there, the show is about love and looks and prettiness and pettiness and secrets and sex. The other couple in the equation is Kent and Carly. If Greg and Steph die by a shot gun blast, then Kent and Carly die by a thousand paper cuts. It’s excruciating…but makes for great entertainment.

Greg is played by Don DiGiulo, who also happens to be the Founding Artistic Director of the company. He is marvelous in this show, a real natural. He’s got a voice like a radio Djs….pure silk. Even when he yells, he’s never grating. His other half, Steph, is played to stunning effect by Karen Baum. Now I have to admit, it was hard for me to fully sympathize with a character who is screaming and letting every curse word under the sun fly when we first meet her. She’s just so abrasive for the first fifteen minutes of the show. But as her story arc progressed and she did indeed show the softer side of Steph, I got her. I totally understood the anger and resentment she showcased so well in the beginning. Brace yourself when you see her, but be prepared to eventually fall in love with this highly volatile, damaged girl. She’s marvelous.

The other couple, Kent and Carly, provide some of the most funny moments in the show. Kent, played by a brilliant Jody O’Donnell, especially was just pitch-perfect as the alpha male. He’s brash and rude and such a, well, guy. He’s also a well and proper scoundrel too; I believe despicable comes to mind. But really, a lot of funny moments with him, especially when he’s talking about someone’s eye color and how they’re not like any color you’d see in a crayon box, except maybe those 64 pack ones with the sharpener built in. 🙂 Carly was great too, though I wish she would have had a bit more stage time. Out of all the cast, I feel like Clara H. Childress  had the least to do. When she was on stage though, she was a joy to watch.

My favorite part of the play had to be the last thirty minutes. I won’t spoil it, but wow! Dynamic performances, scorching dialogue, and nothing held back. And the characters involved will surprise you.

All in all, another great play by the No Name Players. They’re getting an awesome reputation for putting on daring, boundary-pushing shows, and Reasons to be Pretty is no exception. If this is the type of shows and the caliber of talent the No Name Players have now, I can’t wait to see what they do in five years time.

Something extraordinary to be sure!

 

**Tomorrow I’ll post my interview with Don DiGiulio!