A Black man kneels left at the side of a white man. Both are in black clothing. The face of the white man is covered in large white bandages.
Matty Robinson and Dennis Bisto in The Ugly One at Trap Door Theatre Credit: J. Michael Griggs

Lette (Dennis Bisto) assumes that since he’s the inventor of his company’s latest product, he’ll be the one to present it at the big upcoming corporate event. But then his coworkers and wife reveal a secret kept from him his entire life: his hideous face. No one would ever buy his genius invention when he looks like that! Thrown into existential turmoil, Lette is convinced to undergo unproven and radical plastic surgery under the knife of the ghoulish Scheffler (Alexis DawTyne) to change his looks. The operation succeeds too well and overnight he becomes the envy of everyone he meets.

The Ugly One
Through 10/29: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Trap Door Theatre, 1655 W. Cortland, trapdoortheatre.com, $25 (two for one Thu)

The transformation from an ugly talent to a universally adored Adonis isn’t a fit made to last. With fame and riches come envy and paranoia. Soon Lette spends most of his time clinging to fool’s gold rather than satisfaction at work or happiness at home. He’s trying to hold on to something he never even wanted before he got his new face. Marius von Mayenburg’s 2007 horror comedy gets a bracing, utterly contemporary interpretation with Trap Door under Michael Mejia’s direction. Lette’s desperate striving for hollow beauty will be familiar to anyone who scrolls Instagram, and Scheffler’s triumphant declaration that she’s an artist rather than a doctor will evoke countless unwatchable reality TV shows. 

Like an old-fashioned fairy tale, this brash, over-the-top show reminds us to be careful what we wish for.