The coldblooded rogues' gallery of antiheroes that inhabits playwright Neil LaBute's universe demands a new word to adequately describe it: La•Bu•tean (lah-byoo'-tyen): adj., of, pertaining to or suggestive of the perfidious cruelty, moral cowardice and emotional retrogression displayed by otherwise average guys, especially when goaded by the manipulative camaraderie of their man-boy friends. In 2009's Reasons to Be Pretty, making its L.A. premiere at the Geffen Playhouse, those attributes combine with an un-LaButean note of hopeful redemption. A superb Shawn Hatosy stars as the passive and gullible Greg, whose four-year relationship with Steph (a virtuosic Amber Tamblyn) goes up in flames in the play's first 10 minutes when he finds himself facing the blowtorch of Steph's rage. Though his offense boils down to a single unguarded word overheard at a party, Greg's real crime is one of callowly misplaced loyalties. The limits of that callowness are put to the test when the womanizing, narcissistic Kent (a delightfully contemptible Nick Gehlfuss) embarks on an extramarital affair, forcing Greg to choose between covering for his buddy or doing what's right by Kent's pregnant and vulnerable wife (a nicely understated Alicia Witt). Director Randall Arney's fiercely funny production (on Takeshi Kata's versatile set, beneath Daniel Ionazzi's crisp lights) benefits from the winning physicality of Hatosy and Tamblyn, who play their scenes like circling boxers, jabbing and dodging at one another's defenses. The approach deftly undercuts the moral bleakness of LaBute's emotional landscape with notes of tender melancholy and regret.

Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m. Starts: Aug. 16. Continues through Aug. 31, 2014
(Expired: 08/31/14)

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