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The Ugly One at Sideshow Theatre Company | Theater review

A new face creates new troubles for the world’s ugliest man in Marius von Mayenburg’s smart comedy.

By Kris Vire |
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 (Photograph: Jonathan L. Green)
1/7
Photograph: Jonathan L. GreenThe Ugly One at Sideshow Theatre Company
 (Photograph: Jonathan L. Green)
2/7
Photograph: Jonathan L. GreenThe Ugly One at Sideshow Theatre Company
 (Photograph: Jonathan L. Green)
3/7
Photograph: Jonathan L. GreenThe Ugly One at Sideshow Theatre Company
 (Photograph: Jonathan L. Green)
4/7
Photograph: Jonathan L. GreenThe Ugly One at Sideshow Theatre Company
 (Photograph: Jonathan L. Green)
5/7
Photograph: Jonathan L. GreenThe Ugly One at Sideshow Theatre Company
 (Photograph: Jonathan L. Green)
6/7
Photograph: Jonathan L. GreenThe Ugly One at Sideshow Theatre Company
 (Photograph: Jonathan L. Green)
7/7
Photograph: Jonathan L. GreenThe Ugly One at Sideshow Theatre Company

Everything was going just fine for Lette (Robert L. Oakes) until he learned a fact that had somehow escaped him all his life: He’s hideously, unspeakably ugly. His boss thought it went without saying; his wife, who finds him a beautiful person in every respect besides his face, assumed he knew. But once the sad truth is revealed to him, Lette can’t focus on anything else. His only recourse: get a new face.

Contemporary German playwright Marius von Mayenburg’s taut but twisted little comedy, in a 2007 translation by Maja Zade, offers a wry commentary on appearance and identity in the commercialized age. A Frankenstein-like plastic surgeon transforms Lette’s ugly mug into a model of perfection, immediately changing his experience of the world. His wife displays a newly greedy lust; the boss who blithely barred him from presenting his own invention at a conference now treats him with obsequious favor—a treatment that Lette begins to expect from everyone. But it can’t last, as a further twist reveals.

Von Mayenburg’s play is a tidy package, with four actors switching instantaneously among seven characters. (Only Oakes, amusingly, doesn’t change.) Seth Bockley’s inventiveness is a smart match; with Mac Vaughey’s appropriately harsh lights and Christopher M. LaPorte’s clever sound design, Bockley and his terrific cast make the scene and character transitions as seamless as Lette’s new puss.

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