As any man who ever dated a woman (not to mention married her) should know, "No" is the only correct answer to "Does this make me look fat?" -- or any other adjective that might be interpreted as less than stunning. The same goes for sharing thoughts with your drinking buddy about your girlfriend's looks -- especially if his girl speaks to yours.
Expect fireworks -- as only Neil LaBute could set them off -- in Bare Bones Theater's production of the playwright's first show to make it to Broadway, "Reasons to Be Pretty."
You'd think Greg, the bright guy among this quartet of dead-enders (despite his menial job hefting boxes), would know better. But when asked to rate his girlfriend's attractiveness over drinks with his pal Kent, Greg describes Steph as "regular." That crushing assessment of his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend's face is dutifully repeated to her by Kent's wife, Carly. Steph interprets "regular" as "ugly."
LaBute, the prolific author of plays that reverberate in the vernacular of coming-of-age late-bloomers, lets the vitriol of Steph's fury rip unsparingly upon Greg.
Played by handsome Adam Thompson with the dumbfounded look of a deer narrowly dodging headlights (Steph felt like murdering him), Greg starts applying his literary ear -- he always brings a book to work (Poe, Hawthorne, Washington Irving) -- to the comparative drivel of his friends. He soon realizes that Kent is an idiot. As a stunted almost-30-something trapped in adolescence, JLawrence Kenny appears too young to bring off the macho irony of Kent, who'd mistake irony for Iron Man. Emily Ryan Reed as Carly seems to enjoy the havoc she's promoted with her conspiratorial disclosure, which ultimately reveals a basic insecurity. (We suspect Kent and Carly won't make it to their next anniversary. But that's another story.)
For "Reasons to Be Pretty" to have any reason to be, we must be convinced that something has been lost. That Greg and Steph really may have had a chance (or may still) -- except he said "regular" instead of, I don't know, "premium"? LaBute makes an obvious, if entertaining, point about modern, perhaps eternal, obsession with physical appearance. Gabrielle Georgescu as Steph reflects both the out-of-proportion rage and wistful regret that perhaps she overreacted. No kidding. As directed by Lynn Antunovich, Steph captures the girl side of the equation as fully as Thompson's boy perspective.
Pretty good reason to see "Reasons to Be Pretty."
WHAT "Reasons to Be Pretty"
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through Aug. 1, 3 p.m. Sunday, Bare Bones Theater Company, 57 Main St., Northport
TICKETS $25; 631-606-0026, barebonestheater.com