Something surprising has happened to Neil LaBute in the last five years: He seems to have met some people. Not necessarily anyone specific. Just people, whose appetites and impulses are selfish, sure, but not malevolent to the point of abstraction, like so many who populate his earlier oeuvre of men behaving badly. Regular, you might call them, to use the baby-shampoo-mild insult that brings regular-guy Greg so much misery in Reasons to Be Pretty, the initially shaky, ultimately rewarding dramedy that’s landed for what could be another long engagement at the LaBute-loving Studio Theatre.
Billed as the closing chapter of a trilogy that includes the substantial The Shape of Things and the more lightweight Fat Pig, both of which got comfy at Studio in ‘02 and ‘06, respectively, Reasons purports to continue its precursors’ investigations of physical beauty, once again proding and twisting the loyalties among two women and two men. And for a restless first pair of scenes — another protracted, profane screaming match, another depressing conversation between our nominal hero and an at-work frenemy who seems too venal and stupid to function in any nonfictional environment — it feels like a rehash of ideas LaBute has mined more profitably in the past. But what gradually reveals itself to be the play’s true subject is the problem of fidelity. Continue reading