Anatomy of a Relationship
For such a delicate title, reasons to be pretty sure packs a punch. The Earle Ernst Lab venue at UH’s Kennedy Theatre plays some of the more experimental or “mature audiences only” productions. This is among the latter. The lights rise on a couple caught in a vicious argument. Steph (Jasmine Fernandez) and Greg (Brendin Brown) are at the tail-end of a four-year relationship. The set with its bed covered in red sheets and the nude painting of a languishing woman in center-display on the wall might represent sensuality, passion. But here it’s a different sort of passion. The kind that makes Steph threaten to try killing the pet fish again or Greg retorting that this time he’s going to be the one to call 911 before the neighbors do, yet again. Humor and genuinely touching moments blindside the audience amid scenes that are wrought with confrontation and distress.
Let’s get back to that painting. The soft beauty of the female form is incongruous with the full-force bickering going on just below it, especially when we discover the argument is over something Greg said about Steph’s looks. At the heart of this production is the idea of men’s and women’s bodies as sites of contention. The theme is played out by two sets of couples in everyday places – the workplace, a food court, a baseball field, a restaurant – and it’s the dialogue that takes the spotlight in this script by Neil LaBute.
“This playwright is known as one who creates characters wherein the women are second-place citizens and only beauty is the decider,” says director Glenn Cannon. “In this particular play he veers from that to some extent, and in the process creates, I think, very strong and interesting characters. Those were the key points for me, plus the language. It’s so contemporary. Older folks may say people don’t talk that way, but of course they do.”
Of particular note is Steph’s ode to all the attributes of Greg’s body that she finds odious. Greg tends to be warding off the slings and arrows of sharp tongues from all sides. His best pal (Travis Ross as Kent) nags him about Steph’s plain looks while constantly bragging about the hot “face,” “legs,” “tight bod” that he’s currently making steam with, meanwhile callously lying to and neglecting his own pregnant wife. The wife (Michele Shambaugh as Carly) shares a heartfelt scene, pleading with Greg for the truth. It’s fitting when the two men come to blows on the baseball field, an eruption of physicality in this contemplation on bodies.
With this show, Cannon closes the curtains on his role as a theatre director at UH, and next season he retires after 44 years as a theatre professor. He’s also been a mainstay in community theatre with a resume that includes appearances on Lost, Magnum, P.I., the original Hawaii Five-0 and more, as well as in Hitchcock productions and Broadway, and he’s in his 18th year as president of the Screen Actors’ Guild-Hawaii Branch.
the TICKET stub
REASONS TO BE PRETTY
When: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. through March 25.
Where: UH Manoa’s Earle Ernst Lab Theatre
More Info: 956-7655
Andrew Rose, owner of a high art venue (1003 Bishop St., Suite 120) that bears his name, smiles as he recalls the assortment of characters who’ve wandered into his gallery. The large glass storefront invites people to look, and some take it a step further and venture in.
“Some ‘get it,’ but some just look around and go huh?” says Rose. A couple of Waipahu teenagers particularly stand out for him. In jeans and hoodies, smart phones in hand, the girls entered anxiously and gravitated to a corner, curious, but not sure what the gallery was all about with its wide open space and select few paintings on the wall. A minute with Rose, Mr. At-ease, and the two were having the time of their lives striking poses by the paintings, turning the space into an impromptu studio photo session … and having a memorable time taking in the art scene in downtown Honolulu.
“Yes, we get all types in here.” Rose chuckles amiably.
His current exhibit “Yes,” features the works of 15 different artists, including Rose’s own Freefall – a teasing hint of green landscape peaking from far beneath the clouds. Dalani Tanahy’s crazy quilt made from shreds of kapa is a standout piece in its desert tans and yellows with metallic threading. Gaye Chan plays with contrast in her found art ensembles: two vintage photographs of an Asian bride and groom, with images – one of Virgin Mary, the other a topless woman – obscuring the groom. Marcia Morse’s dark renderings of women in full hijab are positioned beside Carol Bennett’s bright, graceful, swimsuited torsos that make you want to ditch the workday and head for the silky caress of Waimea Bay. There’s a talk story with the artists April 19 from 6-7 p.m., and the show runs through April 20.