Theater Review: 'Reasons to Be Happy' -- 3 stars
Reasons to Be Happy
In Neil LaBute’s intriguing new play, “Reasons to Be Happy,” which serves as a sequel to his acclaimed earlier drama “Reasons to Be Pretty,” a male protagonist is faced with choosing between his demanding ex-girlfriend (who suddenly desires him again) and his very caring current girlfriend.
As he weighs desire with a conflicting sense of duty, he is asked, point-blank, what would make him happy.
It seems like a simple enough question, but is it relevant, seeing as he got one of the women pregnant and helped convince the other to leave her husband? Would it be selfish of him to even consider his own happiness?
On a similar note, is it wrong for him to spend so much time reading classic novels instead of being more engaged with what’s going on in the world around him?
That man in question is Greg (Josh Hamilton), who was previously in a relationship with Steph (Jenna Fischer), who abruptly broke up with Greg in “Reasons to Be Pretty.”
Lately, Greg has been dating Carly (Leslie Bibb), a single mother who was formerly married to Greg’s philandering pal Kent (Fred Weller).
The bulk of the play takes place in the employee lounge of a department store where Greg and Kent used to work as packaging clerks and where Carly has risen from security guard to supervisor.
“Reasons to Be Happy” shares many of the qualities of “Reasons to Be Pretty,” which remains LaBute’s most mature (and least misogynistic) work to date.
But its contemplative dialogue is often overwritten and meandering. Since this is the play’s world premiere, it’s not too late for LaBute to make edits.
As directed by LaBute himself, the cast imbues the play with a blunt, hot intensity that makes its issues all the more compelling.
It is rather startling to see Fischer, who is best known as the likable Pam Beesley on “The Office,” verbally attack Hamilton, who perfectly conveys Greg’s con flicted and burdened personality.