Neil LaBute’s ear for modern relationship parlance is unerring and he delivers it with the accuracy of a syringe. With surgical precision and unflinching, heart-baring honesty his characters speak to one another and the audience silently squirms, hearing from the stage what for all the world sounds like things we’ve heard before in the throes of those awful conversations that happen from time to time between men and women. I rarely see LaBute’s women talk to one another. He seems to write from experience, from direct quotes, and so stays away from what women say to women. His honesty, even when the characters are saying things they don’t mean, is as raw as razor burn, and you don’t get that close a scrape through fabrication.
Such raw, red abrasions are on display in the shoebox side space at the Profiles Theater, where “Reasons To Be Pretty” is being performed with energy, passion, and bravery. The stage is smaller than an average Chicago living room, but the dialogue, the performances from the four talented actors needs no elaborate trappings; indeed, the intimacy of the space allows the tensions in the conversations to rebound. The characters barrel into their relationships, make their choices, bump into each other in the break room at work, and shout, mumble, announce, bark, plead their cases with that golden mix of honesty, emotions, contrariness and bravado that makes us human.
The actors are called upon to say difficult things; very, very unpretty words borne of internal conflict between desire and vanity, love and hurt. They say them and mean them, and for that they are to be applauded. Seeing a Neil LaBute play never fails to leave me with a lot to think about; I encourage you all to go see what this play says to you.