Jobsite Theater is calling reasons to be pretty by Neil LaBute "a love story about the impossibility of love." LaBute, whose play turns on a casual remark by a man that his girlfriend has just a "regular" face, emerged in the 1990s as a playwright and film director who revels in pushing boundaries. As a Mormon and Brigham Young University grad, he gained a measure of notoriety for his early work, Bash: Latter-Day Plays, which cast Mormons in a harsh light (it includes a brutal gay bashing) and caused him to be "disfellowshipped" by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is no longer a member of the church.
"The typical LaBute character is selfish to the extreme, emotionally vapid, and will deliberately hurt others to gain a sense of power," wrote Christopher Bigsby in an academic study of the playwright, Neil LaBute: Stage and Cinema.
In 2009, reasons to be pretty was the first LaBute play to be produced on Broadway. Following The Shape of Things and Fat Pig, it is the final installment of his trilogy on the American obsession with appearance. Jobsite has performed one other LaBute play, This Is How It Goes, in 2006.
Directed by David Jenkins, reasons to be pretty stars Kari Goetz, Chris Jackson, Grace Santos and Dayton Sinkia. It opens tonight and runs through May 29 in Shimberg Playhouse at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday. $24.50. (813) 229-7827; jobsitetheater.org.
John Fleming, Times performing arts critic