By Charles J. Morgan
The famous and incisive theater critic Walter Kerr once remarked that every theatrical era has a vision. From the time of the medieval miracle plays to the social significance efforts of Clifford Odets and Sidney Kingsley, there was a vision of reality, of life, of faith, of love. The secular humanist culture in which we now live has its vision: a concentration on the total, inviolable, self-importance of the individual to determine all things for him or herself.
O’Neill struggled with this in his tragedies, while in his short sea plays his characters were more “normally” human and real. His “Morning Becomes Electra” was actually the Agamemnon trilogy of Aeschylus, “The Iceman Cometh” analysis of the human condition.
Our secular humanist culture has given rise to plays like “Reasons to Be Pretty” by Neil LaBute, now in production at the Bare Bones Theater Company in Northport. The script revolves around one single f-word repeated around 5,346 times. The characters spout it interminably.
But what do the four characters “spout” about? A deep life-affecting matter? An inherently flawed relationship? Life itself? No: an innocently passed remark by one of the four about the corporeal pulchritude of a female expressed politely, but causing a relationship to dissolve volcanically.
The entire scene reminded your scribe (a former teacher) of a clutch of pubescent junior high school students cackling in front of their lockers before algebra class. That’s how shallow was the script. The Anglo-Saxon participle was used as comma, colon, verb and etc. in order to keep the flow of anodyne “dialogue” moving among the four actors. Without that word the script would have disintegrated into cementlike boredom.
Adam Thompson is Greg and Gabrielle Georgescu is his girlfriend Steph. She is walking out on him for practically all of Act I. Neither one get to finish a sentence before the other tears in loudly. This banter does add a measure of realism, but when the whole thing is seen to be about a chance remark he made at a party about the good looks of a friend’s girl that causes her to explode and walk out, Thompson’s method of acting as the hurt injured party confused by it all is very effective. He could rant, cry, scream, pout to give individuality to the role.
The beautifully executed fist fight scene with his friend Kent, played to the hilt by JLawrence Kenny, is the most realistic your scribe as seen in years.
Georgescu is perfect in the role of Steph. Her screeds and interventions are masterful. She is a highly talented actress.
In the role of a security guard, Emily Ryan Reed is exceptionally outstanding. She is the only one of the four to express a range of emotions, and she does it with an intensity that was more than impressive.
Lynn Antunovich directed with a sure hand at blocking and a very skillful ability to achieve realism and believability in the actors. It was arguably she who executed the intricate and intense line cutting that, despite what your scribe said about the script, gave the show the impact it needed.
The three, or was it four, flight climb to the theater was made quite worth it due to the welcome hospitality of House Manager Maureen (“Mo”) Spirn.
The Bare Bones Company is well under way to being the ground for new playwrights. LaBute’s effort with this one, although ankle-deep in the waters of theatrical conflict, still provides material for young, aspiring actors.
Bare Bones Theater Company, 57 Main St., Northport, will present “Reasons to Be Pretty” through Aug. 1. Warning: adult language. Tickets are $25. For more information, call 631-606-0026 or visit www.barebonestheater.com.