The first five minutes of the play Reasons To Be Pretty, now being presented by Center Stage at the Southampton Cultural Center, will get your attention perhaps as no play, movie or show ever has. Director Joan M. Lyons, along with the words of playwright Neil LaBute, launches actors Bethany Dellapolla and John Fogarty at the highest sustained energy level there is in theater with an explosive dialogue that rocked the theater audience, a dialogue laced with choice words and powerful emotion all centered around just one remark about appearance.
What you will experience is the power of Ms. Dellapolla’s portrayal of “Steph,” a performance alone worth the price of the ticket. It is her looks that are judged by her boyfriend that is the lit gunpowder that ignites this show.
Then add to Ms. Dellapolla’s passionate, fiery, explosive words and actions the serene and delicate yet stern and poignant portrayal of her boyfriend “Greg,” by Jonathon Fogarty. Mr. Fogarty seems to absorb the stage lighting and through his talent glow even more so. He does carry this show through the minefields of the many relevant topics the playwright intended this play to navigate. Jonathon Fogarty has a Henry Fonda quality of every man within a special guy.
Reasons to be Pretty is a play that uses the dialogues of the four characters to dissect the intensity and the simplicity of relationships along with creating the situations causing the raw emotions of judgments to explode into words. It pushes the envelope with some crude dialogue yet in the end the impact left me thinking about the power dynamics of relationships long into the night after the show ended.
The other two characters in the play are “Kent,” played by John Lovett, and “Carly” played by Bethany Trowbridge. They both shine in their own moments as husband and wife in a failing marriage. Mr. Lovett’s ability to expose the tragedy of what “Kent-like” toxic characters can do to those they love is worthy of mention. Bethany Trowbridge projected strength through conviction in her interpretation of her role as “Carly.” Her stage presence has a dignified quality to it. It was interesting to see her character evolve throughout the show. However, it is Bethany Dellapolla and Jonathon Fogarty who are the nuts, bolts, heart and soul of this production.
Director Joan M. Lyons moves her actors around the stage in a way that helps keeps the intense flow of emotions connected while complimenting playwright LaBute’s perception about the inner workings of what makes a relationship grow, die, prosper or fail. The lines are so provoking at times you can feel the whole audience wrestling with the issues.
The play, Reasons to be Pretty, is not always a pretty picture. The gruff dialogue can go beyond shocking to some, but to me it woke me up, stirred my attention and in the end gave me a positive thought provoking theater experience.
Reasons to be Pretty will run through Sunday, January 27 – with performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
General admission is $25. There is also a brunch theater package available at Fellingham’s and dinner theater packages available at the Plaza Cafe and Claude’s.
Southampton Cultural Center’s The Levitas Center for the Arts is located at 25 Pond Lane in Southampton. For more information, call 631-287-4377 or visit www.scc-arts.org.