Neil LaBute's Reasons to Be Happy Revisits Quarreling Quartet of Friends

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17 Jun 2013

Josh Hamilton and Jenna Fischer
Josh Hamilton and Jenna Fischer
Photo by Joan Marcus

Neil LaBute finds reasons to revisit the past.


Neil LaBute has several reasons to be happy about Reasons to Be Pretty: It got him to Broadway, with a Best Play Tony nomination and noms for half of his four-person cast.

What he thought he was doing with this blistering comedy about two sets of lovers crashing and burning was to cap a toxic trilogy on how one's looks distort values — a point he made in The Shape of Things and Fat Pig. What he seems to have done, however, is open a can of cobras that unleashes the ongoing sex saga of an odd quartet who fell apart over what's pretty and what's not.

Round Two, Reasons to Be Happy, officially opened June 11 at the Lortel. This is the first time LaBute is recycling characters, and he hinted there might be a trilogy in them, maybe even more.

"They're the kind of characters you must check in with every few years," he said, referring to the drama-prone foursome Greg, Steph, Kent and Carly. "This takes place three years later. They've moved on, sorta."

On that "sorta" hangs another anguished, combustible tale. It seems Steph — who took profound umbrage at being called "regular" rather than "hot," and thus created the tsunami that swamped both relationships — now feels she may have been a tad rash in her rage and is capable, in spite of her new marriage, of relapsing with Greg, the ex who has now taken up with her best friend, Carly. Naturally none of this sits well with Carly's ex, Kent, despite his new relationship.

Josh Hamilton — who inherited the role of Greg from a Tony-nominated Thomas Sadoski — contended that the character is a decent sort, "but he gets himself into situations because he's too much of a pleaser. Part of him wants to say what he thinks the person he's with wants to hear, but he's not so good at saying what he wants. In this play, that causes him to spread himself too thin. I think that's indicative of how one can go through life with good intentions, and leave behind a trail of carnage. Even if you're not out to hurt anyone, it's very hard to go through life without bumping up against them in some way here and there."


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