Off-Broadway Theater Review: REASONS TO BE HAPPY (MCC Theater at Lucille Lortel Theatre)

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by Dmitry Zvonkov on June 11, 2013

in Theater-New York

REASONS TO SEE THIS SHOW

Neil LaBute’s explosive and wildly funny new comedy reasons to be happy, which Mr. LaBute also directs, starts off with a bang as Steph (Jenna Fischer), having stalked her ex-boyfriend Greg (Josh Hamilton) in the parking lot of Trader Joe’s, Dmitry Zvonkov's Stage and Cinema Off Broadway review of MCC Theater’s "Reasons to Be Happy" at the Lucille Lortel.yells at him for starting up a romantic relationship with her best friend Carly (Leslie Bibb). In the next scene, Greg gets more of an earful, this time from Kent (Fred Weller), his former friend and co-worker, who also happens to be Carly’s ex-husband and father to her 3-year-old. But these are firecrackers compared to the bomb Steph subsequently drops on Greg, revealing that she’s still in love with him and wants to give their relationship another try. Were Greg a decisive man of character who knew what he wanted he’d likely have resolved the conflict quickly and relatively painlessly. But the guy is a wet noodle who doesn’t want to be the cause of anyone’s unhappiness; naturally he winds up being just that.

Mr. LaBute’s loving direction, deft and precise, seems to tease out every reaction, every gesture from his cast until they feel just right, until all the performances fit into one another like a pulsing, organic jigsaw puzzle. The actors for their part Dmitry Zvonkov's Stage and Cinema Off Broadway review of MCC Theater’s "Reasons to Be Happy" at the Lucille Lortel.deliver outstanding renditions. Ms. Bibb, a statuesque beauty, remarkably makes herself believable as a warehouse security guard. Ms. Fischer, finally shedding her cutesy Pam character from The Office, makes Steph, a vulgar and ignorant hick, not only sexy but truly attractive, and not in spite of but because of her “flaws.” Mr. Weller supplies his thuggish jock Kent with wonderfully eccentric mannerisms and a startling vulnerability. And Mr. Hamilton’s Greg is the quintessential indecisive pseudo-intellectual hipster-wannabe closet-egoist; just one little back and forth he does – trying to decide whether or not to eat a cinnamon bun – brilliantly illustrates the essence of his character.

The show, uproarious from beginning to end, is full of insightful, even profound observations concerning human behavior and relationships. Considering his previous works, reasons to be happy is surprisingly warm and optimistic, and this Dmitry Zvonkov's Stage and Cinema Off Broadway review of MCC Theater’s "Reasons to Be Happy" at the Lucille Lortel.perfectly legitimate choice works well. Yet one gets the sense that perhaps Mr. LaBute lets his protagonist Greg get off a little too easy. On the one hand a man’s inability to decide between two women can be seen as somewhat charming, maybe a tad immature – he’s a nice guy who doesn’t want to make anyone feel bad, etc. But on the other, beneath this type of man-boy’s good-hearted innocence there often lurks a spiritual black hole – born of vanity, egocentricity, selfishness – which makes it difficult for this kind of individual to truly love anyone, ever.

Dmitry Zvonkov's Stage and Cinema Off Broadway review of MCC Theater’s "Reasons to Be Happy" at the Lucille Lortel.photos by Joan Marcus

reasons to be happy
MCC Theater
The Lucille Lortel Theatre
scheduled to end on June 29, 2013
for tickets, call (212) 727-7722
or visit http://www.mcctheater.org/

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