Students from the Grand Valley State University Theatre department organize multiple performances each year, and under the direction of GVSU student Cody Robinson, they premiered “Reasons to Be Pretty” this weekend at the Louis Armstrong Theatre.
The performance was one of intimacy. Audience members were seated on stage in rows of three on platforms surrounding the simplistic set.
The production was that, simplistic. The cast consisted of four GVSU students, so they each were given ample amount of time to shine – and shine they did. Caleb Baird as Greg, Monica Longstreet as Steph, Chad Marriot as Kent and Mara Spears as Carly all dazzled the audience in different ways.
Although some of the chemistry was off amongst the actors, each of them did an excellent job at becoming their character. They were each believable as mindless boyfriend, an inconsiderate and cheating husband, a hopelessly devoted wife and a stereotypical girlfriend.
Each of the four cast members did the best they could with this content, and they each embodied maturity as they delivered vulgar, sexist lines with ease.
Baird was the real star of this play. His performance of Greg, a man who accidently upsets his girlfriend which results in the demolition of their relationship, was believable.
The only downfall to Baird’s performance was the chemistry lacking between him and co-star Longstreet. Love or sexual-tension between the two wasn’t present, and it took away from the play. They didn’t seem like two people who had been in a long-term relationship and in love; instead, they were like awkward teenagers terrified of PDA.
Longstreet individually gave a noteworthy performance. She played Steph who was a stereotypical girl that would make any feminist cringe, and she did it quite well. Each fight, emotional moment and fit was performed almost perfectly.
Spears, a GVSU freshman that has yet to declare a major, should follow her talents in theatre. The freshman played a wife that remains devoted to her cheating husband through all her doubts and, eventually, she conjures the strength to leave the situation. Spears’ performance was memorable.
Kent was the trickiest character to become, but Marriot transformed into the sexist, misogynistic character. During a fight with Baird, Marriot’s temper-tantrum could have rivaled that of Bruce Banner just before he transforms into the Incredible Hulk.
The simplicity of the play’s production and props made it that much better. The lack of décor and backgrounds allowed for audience members to concentrate on the important message that the play had to offer. Everyone in life deals with relationship problems –whether it is with family, friends or significant others – and “Reasons to Be Pretty” tackles the issues surrounding such relationships.
The audience could identify with the dead-end relationship of Greg and Steph, the unhealthy marriage of Kent and Carly or even the tests placed on the friendships of all the characters.
In the end, the cast, crew and everyone involved allowed audience members to leave the Louis Armstrong Theatre contemplating their relationships and knowing that the reason to be pretty is for one’s self, not for others.