Atlanta Art Reviews by Susan K Asher
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‘Reasons to be Pretty’ at Hertz Theatre

2010 June 18

Jacob York and Rachel Richards

If future productions are as good as its first show, Pinch n’ Ouch Theatre is on its way to success.

Now playing at the Hertz Theatre at Woodruff Arts Center, “Reasons to be Pretty” follows two couples in their early 20s grappling with relationships with their significant others. Written by Neil LaBute and nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play 2009, the play slices into ugly, raw veins of young adulthood making characters bleed.

“Reasons to be Pretty” opens with Steph (Rachel Richards) brandishing a curling iron, daring Greg (Jacob York), her boyfriend of four years, to tell her what her best friend Carly (Bree Dawn Shannon) overheard him say about the looks of her “regular” face. While he squirms and cowers in a chair, Steph stomps on his boots, hurls curse words at him and forbids him to leave the room, even though he is running late for work.

Carly, a pretty blonde, and her husband, Kent (Grant McGowen), work at a packing plant with Greg. The newlyweds seem to be happily in love, but their relationship fizzles when Kent latches on to a new “good lookin,” “sexy-dirty” coworker.

These troubled young adults attempt to claw themselves out of failed relationships, bad friendships and blue-collar jobs. Greg, who seems to be the weakest, is the only one who manages to do all three. When he has had enough of Kent’s lies and bullying, he knocks him to the ground with a few punches and leaves him lying there with a bloody nose.

The play presents plenty of drama and sad, comedic situations where characters act half their ages. Even when some scenes are a bit unbelievable, Richards plays true to her character, arguing relentlessly with Greg, yet pining for him when he is not around. Shannon’s joy and pain are written on her face, and that is all she needs.

The co-founders of Pinch n’ Ouch Theatre, Shannon and McGowen, both in their 20s, worked in theater in Atlanta and studied the Meisner acting technique together in New York. Sanford Meisner told actors not to react to any circumstance until they felt a stimulus. He used the example of a pinch and an ouch. The actor must first feel the pinch (or stimulus) before he can respond with an ouch. Hence the company name.

This fall, Pinch n’ Ouch will present the Atlanta premiere of “Lobby Hero” by celebrated playwright Kenneth Lonergan, whose films “Gangs of New York” and “You Can Count on Me” were nominated for Academy Awards.

“Reasons to be Pretty” runs through June 27 at the Hertz Theatre. Visit Pinchn’Ouch.

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