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How invested an audience becomes in a play is always a key metric of its success, but Neil Labute‘s Reasons to Be Pretty at Studio Theatre may force viewers to step back from their emotions, if only for a second. The play, full of relatable characters and familiar situations, is ripe with tense moments and arguments that for many theatergoers will hit close—-maybe too close—-to home.

Audiences’ emotions, meanwhile, may cutseveral different ways during Terrence McNally‘s The Lisbon Traviata, now playing at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater—-it’s hilarious in the first act, ridiculous in the second. Read Trey Graham‘s epistolary review of both plays here.

Race and gentrification are tricky subjects to tackle in any medium, but Bruce NorrisClybourne Park, at Woolly Mammoth through April 17, is a beautiful consideration of both topics. Both acts are set in the same Chicago house; the first takes place 50 years before the second, showing how sociopolitical issues have affected a Chicago neighborhood and family. There’s no overt villain, either:  Norris exposes ignorance on both sides of a racial conflict. The play is smart without being condescending, and funny without being preachy. Read Chris Klimek‘s review here.