(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/17.)

Neil LaBute is haunted by the American obsession with physical beauty. The Shape of Things showed a shambolic geek getting a ruinous makeover. Fat Pig attacked the idea that we all have to conform to a perfect shape. And now LaBute shows how a chance remark about a lover's features can destroy a relationship. The result is a rueful, intelligent comedy that suggests we should all stop defining ourselves, and each other, by our outward appearances.

LaBute starts with the noisiest domestic quarrel I've heard for some time. Steph walks out on her long-time lover, Greg, after his reported remark that her face, in comparison with that of another woman, is just "regular". Greg, who works the graveyard shift in a factory, is puzzled by Steph's rage and irked by the fact that his casual remark was passed on by a work colleague, Carly, who is the wife of his best friend, Kent. But, in the course of a complex series of confrontations, Greg discovers that every one is hooked on appearances. Carly, a pregnant security guard, is worried that she may be losing the affections of Kent, who is besotted by an apparent stunner working in another part of the factory. Isn't there more to life, LaBute implicitly asks, than simply how one looks?

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