Sarah Hemphill’s character Carly shows her frustration in dealing with Greg

Getting to the root of superficial

Steph blows up her too-comfortable, four-year relationship with her boyfriend Greg over a thoughtless remark he made about her.

Steph blows up her too-comfortable, four-year relationship with her boyfriend Greg over a thoughtless remark he made about her.

Kent is so bored with his marriage to Carly that he pushes the envelope by texting his mistress right under his wife’s nose.

Ignition Theatre is tackling the superficial nature of modern relationships in its next production, Reasons to be Pretty.

Or at least that’s director Matt Grue’s take on the Neil LaBute play that opens on Thursday in the Nickle Studio, upstairs in Red Deer’s Memorial Centre.

Grue admitted his view of the comedy/drama differs from many official accounts of what this play’s supposed to be about.

While many theatre critics see it as part of a LaBute trilogy (along with The Shape of Things and Fat Pig) about society’s preoccupation with beauty and appearances, Grue believes this play goes a bit deeper.

“I think (LaBute) is suggesting that we’re not in a good place” when it comes to relationships, said Grue.

Both of the young, working-class couples — Steph and Greg and Carly and Kent — in LaBute’s play are overly complacent.

Grue believes the couples got to know each other in high school, dated afterwards, and in the case of Carly and Kent, got married because it seemed like the next logical step. “You get comfortable, you gain weight, you stop trying, you don’t go out anymore. . . .”

In short, you get bored, said Grue.

Instead of talking about things that matter, or maintaining individual interests, the people in the play are sidetracked by TV, text messages, Facebook and Twitter. But those are just the latest distractions from good communication.

Grue admitted a 1950s husband might have hidden behind his newspaper, or a wife might have lost herself in neighbourhood gossip and PTA meetings.

“I think they become less interested in each other on an intimate level.”

One way of exploding a relationship that’s become too predictable is to make a mountain out of a molehill, as Steph does, when her boyfriend’s comment is repeated to her, said Grue.

Another sure-fire way is to have an affair, as Kent does.

But Grue believes improved communications would be a more productive and less destructive solution to the marital doldrums. “When you can’t hold a conversation anymore, that’s a good indicator” of a relationship tanking, he added.

Grue believes people of all ages will find Reasons to be Pretty to be illuminating, ­as well as entertaining. “It’s funny, it’s searing, it’s uncomfortable, it’s dramatic and honest.”

The play’s ending is also unexpectedly moving, he added.

“It’s devastating and yet uplifting. . . . It takes the whole play to get to this one single, beautiful moment.”

Grue was particularly struck by how complicated things sometimes have to get to become perfectly simple.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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