Review: Reasons To Be Pretty (Theatre Bassaris)

Reasons To Be Pretty plays at Toronto’s Red Sandcastle Theatre and focuses on relationships and vulnerability

Before the performance began, I turned to the stranger sitting beside me. What have you heard – I asked – about Reasons To Be Pretty?

She didn’t know this work, though she was familiar with other plays by Neil LaBute, the playwright behind Reasons To Be Pretty, which runs until February 18th at Red Sandcastle Theatre. She described Mr. LaBute’s style as gritty.

At intermission, she amended that description. “Visceral,” she said.

I couldn’t say it better.

Watching Reasons To Be Pretty I sat near the edge of my seat, begging for the characters to cut deeper into one another. It hurt to watch, I also couldn’t get enough.

Is this what’s called sadomasochism?

The pain – emotional assaults and physical humiliations – the characters inflict on one another commanded my attention, and brought me to unpalatable wincing-squirming-gut-wrenching responses. But – perversely – this is what I crave from theatre.

The acting was superb, which helps.

But perhaps what makes Reasons To Be Pretty such an affecting work, is Mr. LaBute’s characters are acutely vulnerable and, seemingly, at the same time, pretty much totally insensitive to one another.

In short, they are plausible humans.

Despite this – or, maybe, because of this – they can change, for better and worse. And for an aging young named Greg, played by Rob Renda, the former is certainly true.

The counterpoint to Mr. Renda’s character, is Andrew Loder’s Kent. Greg and Kent work together at a factory, where they pack boxes.

As the action moves on, and we learn the passion Kent has for baseball and calloused outlook on his wife, Carly, played by Sarah Jurgenson, our sympathy – or, at least my sympathy – was lost.

Matching the trajectory of Greg’s nuanced transformation though, is that of Steph, played by Sarah Brose.

Much like Mr. Renda’s part amongst the two male characters, Ms. Brose’s is the more demanding, I think, of the two female parts.

While Reasons To Be Pretty follows two couples, the relationship between Steph and Greg seems to be the focus.

Overall, the cast was a joy to watch. Many of them, I’m told, are graduates from York University’s drama program.

If you can see this show, please do. Particularly if you like the work of Sam Shepard or John Patrick Shanley, this is probably for you. It’s a fantastic work, with a fantastic cast and director.


Reasons To Be Pretty is playing at Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen Street East)
– Performances are from Wednesday, February 15th to Saturday. February 18th at 7:30PM
– Tickets are $10.00
– Tickets are available at the door, or by calling 416-845-9411. It’s also worth checking out the website for the company producing the show, which is:


Photo: Sarah Brose as Steph in Reasons To Be Pretty, in a photo by Lauren Passander

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