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Reasons to Be Pretty - Act One

Synopsis of Neil LaBute's Comedy

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Reasons to Be Pretty is a hard-edged comedy written by Neil LaBute. It is the third and final installment of a trilogy (The Shape of Things, Fat Pig, and Reasons to Be Pretty). The trio of plays are connected not by characters or plot but by the recurring theme of body image within American society. Reasons to Be Pretty premiered on Broadway in 2008. It was nominated for three Tony Awards (Best Play, Best Leading Actress, and Best Leading Actor).

Meet the Characters:

Steph is the central argument of the play. Throughout the story, she is furious. She feels emotionally wounded by her boyfriend -- who believes that her face is "regular" (which she views as a way of saying that she is not beautiful).

Greg, the protagonist, spends most of his life trying to explain his misunderstood intentions to others. Like other leading men in Neil LaBute plays, he is far more affable than the male supporting characters (who are always foul-mouthed jerks). In spite of his low-key, eager-to-remain-calm personality, Greg somehow evokes anger from the rest of the characters.

Kent is the obnoxious jerk character we were just talking about. He is crude, down-to-earth, and believes that his life is better than perfect. He not only has a good-looking wife, but he's also tangled in a work-related affair.

Carly is the wife of Kent and the best friend of Stephanie. She sets the conflict in motion, spreading gossip about Greg's supposedly true feelings.

"Reasons to Be Pretty" Plot Summary of Act One:

In Scene One, Steph is very angry because her boyfriend Greg supposedly said something derogatory about her physical appearance. After a heated argument, Greg explains he and his friend Kent had a conversation in Kent's garage. Kent had mentioned that the newly hired woman at their workplace was "hot." According to Greg, he replied: "Maybe Steph hasn't got a face like that girl's. Maybe Steph's face is just regular. But I wouldn't trade her for a million bucks."

After his admission, Steph storms out of the room.

Scene Two:

Greg hangs out with Kent, recounting his fight with Stephanie. During their conversation, Kent chastises him about eating an energy bar directly after a meal, claiming that Greg will get fat.

Kent goes into the bathroom. Kent's wife Carly arrives. Carly is in law enforcement. She is the one who gossiped to Steph about Greg's conversation, regarding her "regular face."

Carly harshly criticizes Greg, detailing how upset Steph has become, reacting to his insensitive words. Greg argues that he was trying to say something complimentary about Steph. Carly states that his "communication skills suck."

When Kent finally returns from the bathroom, he defuses the argument, kisses Carly, and advises Greg to treat women nicely to keep the relationship happy. Ironically, whenever Carly is not around, Kent is far more demeaning and derogatory than Greg.

Scene Three:

Steph meets Greg in neutral territory: a restaurant at lunchtime. He has brought her flowers, but she remains intent on moving out and ending their four year relationship.

She wants to be with someone who sees her as beautiful. After unleashing more of her anger and rebuking Greg's attempts at reconciliation, Steph demands the keys so she can remove all of her items from their home. Greg finally fights back (verbally) and says that he doesn't want to see her "stupid face" any more. That makes Stephanie snap!

Steph makes him sit back down at the table. She them pulls out a letter from her purse. She has written down everything about Greg that she dislikes. Her letter is a vicious (yet amusing) tirade, detailing all of his physical and sexual flaws, from head to toe. After reading the hateful letter, she admits that she wrote all of those things to hurt him. However, she says that his comment about her face represents his true beliefs, and can therefore never be forgotten or taken back.

Scene Four:

Kent and Carly sit together, complaining about work and money. Carly criticizes her husband's lack of maturity. Just as they start to make up, Greg arrives to hang out and read a book. Carly leaves, annoyed because she blames Greg for making Steph move away.

Kent reluctantly confides in Greg, admitting that he is having an affair with the "hot girl" at work. He goes through a long list of positive details about her physique. (In many ways it is the opposite of Steph's angry letter monologue.) At the end of the scene, Kent makes Greg promise not to reveal the affair to anyone (especially Steph or Carly). Kent claims that men must stick together because they are "like buffalo." Act One of Reasons to Be Pretty concludes with Greg's realization that his relationship is not the only one that has fallen apart.

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