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REASONS TO BE THEATRE-GOING…

As the official end of the theater season arrives with the annual Tony Awards, there will be the winners, who will gain much longer runs with each Tony awarded, and there will be the also-rans (theater knows no losers-it takes too much time, money and talent to get it up and running in the first place). The also rans are those Broadway shows that don’t reap the benefit of statuette recognition, and thereby have their runs shortened because people still believe if it doesn’t get a statue, it ain’t worth seeing.

That notion is wrong, wrong, and WRONG.
One such victim of this notion may be Neil LaBute’s superb drama “Reasons To Be Pretty, now playing at the Lyceum Theatre. Having received glowing reviews last season when it ran off-Broadway under the auspices of MCC Theater Company, producers decided to take the plunge and, with a bit of necessary recasting, took the play to Broadway. It has been struggling to find an audience ever since. Certainly, it’s essentially the same play that filled its off-Broadway house every performance last year. Some tinkering has been done, but nothing major. Yes, two of its original cast members had to leave when one was hired for a role in a major HBO series and the other chose to do an ill-fated Eugene O’Neill revival that recently shuttered. But their replacements are terrific. Ok, it’s in a bigger space, but what about all those folks who couldn’t score tickets last season? Did they lose interest? How could such a sure-fire crowd-pleaser suddenly fail to please the crowds, and, in fact, fail to fill even 50% of the audience on any given night? What happened?

It’s hard to say. Perhaps it’s the seeming glut of product that filled almost every theatre on Broadway this Spring, most with big-name casts and announced limited runs. (See it now! See it now! It’s only running 15 weeks!!, most of their ads proclaim.) Perhaps it’s the fact that the other plays got so-called “money reviews”, the kind of write-ups that ensure people will pay top dollar to see it no matter what. That’s what happened with “God Of Carnage”, a play that was doing decent business before the start of performances, and then, WHAM, once word of mouth began, and those love-letter-y reviews came out, became the hottest and most difficult ticket in town to score. And those actors were only contracted until the beginning of July-that lucky quartet is being courted and cajoled into extending and playing through the summer and later, because those producers know another foursome might not have the same audience appeal and become a surefire sellout that the play is right now. And replacing all the actors at the same time means another breaking-in period, another few weeks of internet chatter and then, the terror of having to go through another Opening Night with the possibility that there might not be another round of money reviews with a different cast in the show, and then, the horror of the critics possibly starting to notice cracks in the structure they didn’t notice the first time around. And “God Of Carnage” isn’t the only production it could happen to; it’s just the only one that would replace its whole cast at the same time.
But I digress.

While “Reasons To Be Pretty” is running, it deserves to be seen. It is a funny, nasty, hard-to-watch-at times, powerful piece of theater featuring another quartet of actors who, unfortunately, aren’t being courted to extend because none of them are going anywhere. Except up. Thomas Sadoski is giving a most heartfelt, beautifully calibrated performance in this, his career-making role. Or, what SHOULD be his career-making role. He should win the Best Actor Tony. Everyone’s money is on Geoffrey Rush in “Exit The King”, but even he pales in comparison to Sadoski. Marin Ireland is fierce and funny opposite him, I’ve seen her many times before on stage, but never quite like this. Steven Pasquale is the perfect jerk-it oozes from every chauvinistic, misogynist pore in his body. And Piper Perabo is dead-on as the hapless, knowing wife. This cast is amazing, this play is amazing, and amazingly, it may not be around by mid-summer. It shouldn’t be allowed to happen. This piece needs to be seen.

Whattya waiting for?