Thursday, April 20, 2023



Reasons To Be Pretty by Neil LaBute.

Directed by Tim Sekuless. Shadow director Kim Beamish. Designed by Lexi Sekuless and Annette Sharpe. Costume design by Fiona Hopkins. Lighting design. Stefan Wronski. Sound design  Andre Pinzon. Major Partner Elite Event Tchnology. The Mill Theatre at Dairy  Road. April 12 – May 6 2023. Bookings:

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Opening a show with a raucous slanging match between two characters can be risky. On the one hand an audience is immediately drawn into the argument, eager to discover what could have caused such an outcry. On the other hand one can be discomforted and turned off by the obvious display of vitriol. In Lexi Sekuless’s production of Neil LaBute’s  gritty play about human relationships the performances of the four actors are so real, so visceral that we are compelled to become involved in Steph’s  violent rebuke at Greg’s ill-considered remark about her appearance and her face in particular. What may appear an unintended slight to Greg  (Rhys Hekimian)_assumes  enormous import  to the offended Steph (Alana Denham-Preston). LaBute’s fiercely barbed dialogue is conflict’s weaponry that pierces the vulnerability and insecurity of the four characters, littering the stage with the detritus of fractured friendship and exposing the ugliness of a relationship breakup. Greg’s work colleague and baseball teammate Kent (Ryan Erlandsen) is married to the security guard Carly (Lexi Sekuless). Erlandsen gives an eerily realistic performance as the despicable, arrogant douchebag that Kent is. His aggressive, machoistic demeanour is contrasted by Hekimian’s portrayal of a more sensitive Greg who reads Nathaniel Hawthorne and Washington Irving and dreams of going to College. Their relationship erupts into violence when Greg is no longer prepared to defend Kent’s infidelity.

Lexi Sekuless as Carly. Ryan Erlandsen as Kent

It is the women who bear the cruel burden of social expectation, sexual attitude and  accepted body image. Steph reacts to a comment that defines her by her appearance. Kent’s lewd comments defile a woman as a sexual object and Carly’s arse defines a woman’s pregnancy.  In a moment of insecurity Carly, in her attempt to learn from Greg of Kent’s infidelity cries out  “I don’t know why God made it so hard to trust you guys, but he did and it sucks” There can be no doubt that LaBute’s sympathy lies with Steph and Carly and to some extent Greg. By the end of this American domestic sitdram, the audience is left on a cliff edge. Will Stef and Greg get back together? Will Carly leave Kent? Will Kent learn the error of his ways? Possibly not. After all,   Reasons To Be Pretty is a snapshot of reality and real Life is not always a happy ending. As Steph leaves Greg alone on stage to meet her new lover at the end of the play, the audience is left to reflect and ponder. It’s a pretty complex dilemma.

Rhys Hekimian as Greg. Alana Denham-Preston as Steph

I alluded to Reasons To Be Pretty  as an American sitdram. It is of course far more than this. If it were not so superbly acted, brilliantly directed and effectively staged, it might remind one of a television sitcom. But in the intimate environment of The Mill Theatre and with all the power and immediacy of a live theatre experience, Lexi Sekuless Productions at the Mill Theatre has created a highly polished and thoroughly professional production of Neil LaBute’s thought–provoking glimpse of human beings charting the difficult course of human relationships.  Director Tim Sekuless has elicited a realism from his four actors that is both unnerving and thoroughly convincing. He is assisted in this by costume designer Fiona Hopkins who immediately locates the action in New York and provides inspiration to the actors. Lexi Sekuless and Annettte Sharpe’s set design of suspended rubbish bin lids and garbage bags suggests the discarded refuse of relationships in a play where the possibility of positive relationship is so easily thrown away.

I have often remarked that the quality of acting and production in Canberra has risen markedly in recent years with the emergence of professionally trained artists and independent theatre companies. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the production of Reasons To Be Pretty. Neil LaBute’s first play premiered on Broadway in 2008 and Lexi Sekuless’s production is worthy because of its professionalism and the intimacy of The Mill Theatre of the very best Off Broadway production. Next year Sekuless will be producing the play’s sequel Reasons To Be Happy and if the current production of Reasons To Be Pretty is anything to go by it will be a production not to be missed.   

Photos by Dan Abroguena