REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?

WiCkEDrOcKS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/13/04
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/17/13 at 12:16am
I'm seeing the show next weekend and could not be more excited, as I loved REASONS TO BE PRETTY and generally love LaBute. Was anyone at the first preview tonight? How was it?!
Current Avatar: Tony-winner Idina Menzel, delivering a sucker-punch of an 11:00 number, "Always Starting Over," in IF/THEN.
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/17/13 at 12:37am
I was there.

I was not a fan of it. I mean- I enjoyed it fine... while it was going on. Discussing it with my friend as we walked to Union Square, however, made me realize the flaws in the text and the production that I didn't immediately see in the theatre.

This iteration of Greg is a selfish people pleaser, who is inexplicably fawned upon by both Carly and Steph- and who manages to finish the play without any real consequences for his ****ty behavior.

Steph is a shrieking harridan half the time, a total idiot the other half (she doesn't know that Brown is a school). Carly, meanwhile, remains blithe and contained even as Greg's actions are made known to her. But both women just come across as people who are only defined by their relationship to Greg. Steph is the more egregious misogynist caricature here, though- compulsive, bipolar, codependent.

Kent is mostly removed from the forced love triangle, and his storyline is the most compelling- a slow unraveling of a guy who represses his emotions with masculine facade. But he's denied any sort of resolution in LaBute's focus on Greg-Carly-Steph.

Most of the scenes hinge on one of the characters having found something out or decided something in an off-stage scene. This happens over and over and grows predictable as a trope. None of the scenes will go the way they appear, because one of the characters is sitting on something that completely changes the context and reframes the argument- and god knows they won't reveal it until it's pertinent to do so.

The performances are all good, and the design is great- Jenna Fischer was, perhaps, a bit nervy in her stage debut, but acquitted herself well and had excellent chemistry with Josh Hamilton. Fred Weller is the strongest though, as Kent- injecting actual emotion into the proceedings in his excellent last scene. Josh Hamilton is charming and charismatic as Greg, but the character is just... not compelling.
WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel
Broadway Legend
joined:5/26/05
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/17/13 at 10:29am
I'm going tonight.

How was Leslie Bibb? (She's the main reason I wanted to go.
Marie: Don't be in such a hurry about that pretty little chippy in Frisco. Tony: Eh, she's a no chip!
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/17/13 at 11:46am
She's very good- but her character is just not dynamic, in my opinion. She's let down by the text.
WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel
Broadway Legend
joined:5/26/05
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/17/13 at 12:39pm
Thanks, and as always, your reviews are great!
Marie: Don't be in such a hurry about that pretty little chippy in Frisco. Tony: Eh, she's a no chip!
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/17/13 at 12:45pm
I'm really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this.
mpd4165
Stand-by
joined:8/6/09
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/17/13 at 12:47pm
I hadn't even realized this was going into previews this week as I'm on my way now to NY. Jenna Fischer is an alum of my college, I'm considering it if other shows don't work out.

Thanks for the review Kad!
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/17/13 at 12:53pm
I should note- for anyone wondering- that you don't need to be familiar with Reasons to be Pretty to fully appreciate this. Some events are referenced in passing, but otherwise it's fairly self-contained and stands alone.
GilmoreGirlO2
Broadway Star
joined:4/13/05
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/17/13 at 12:55pm
Didn’t get to see “Reasons to be Pretty” onstage, but did read it (and have read and/or seen most of LaBute’s published plays). Hearing about this production, based off of the descriptions in articles, it sounded like this might have been a break from LaBute’s usual. I generally find most of LaBute’s characters extremely hard to like (which is an issue when they are the protagonist), but the things I had been reading about this show made me think that we might grow to really appreciate these characters in “Reasons to be Happy”. (I continue to read and see LaBute shows because, although I find the characters hard to connect with or like much, I do enjoy the dialogue and plot line.) Based off of your review, though, Kad, it sounds like Greg is just as much of a (for lack of a better word) “douche,” as usual.

Your experience in enjoying the show while it’s happening but being frustrated by it later as you give more thought and discussion to it is often how I feel with LaBute shows, whether reading or seeing them.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kad. Grateful to read an insightful review on the show as, unless it gets extended to the end of July, I will not have the opportunity to see it. Looking forward to reading Whizzer’s thoughts as well!
ClydeBarrow
Broadway Legend
joined:6/20/12
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/17/13 at 12:59pm
What if you saw PRETTY and hated it? Would you recommend that I see this since it's apparently a break from his usual?

Also I am a fan of LaBute's movies but hate his plays.
"Pardon my prior Mcfee slip. I know how to spell her name. I just don't know how to type it." -Talulah
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/17/13 at 01:04pm
I don't really see it as much of a break from Reasons to be Pretty in terms of style. I can't imagine if you hated Pretty, you'd love Happy. It's possible, but it's not substantially different. It's the same characters, only (in my opinion) worse.
GilmoreGirlO2
Broadway Star
joined:4/13/05
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/17/13 at 01:06pm
And what I was hoping for were the same characters, only better. Shame it doesn't sound like this is the result.
Owen22
Broadway Legend
joined:2/24/11
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/17/13 at 01:18pm
What I loved about "Reasons to Be Pretty" was A) I discovered Marin Ireland. And B) it was such a non-nihilistic departure for Labute. Not as much in Sodoski's hands, but I saw it also in London at the Almeida, and Tom Burke had me in tears in the last scene.

I really just wanted these characters left alone.It did not call out for a sequel. Maybe he couldn't handle leaving a character he created in a "good" place and had to ruin it...
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/17/13 at 01:34pm
I wouldn't say this play is nihilistic. It just sort of resets everything that happened before.

The inciting incident is that Greg and Carly have gotten together. Steph finds out and confronts Greg in a Costco parking lot. But suddenly, Steph decides she's still in love with him. Greg may feel the same way- except when he's talking to Carly. He vacillates between the two of them, with some twists thrown in his path. All the growing up Greg seems to do over the course of Pretty is, like, out of the window and he's reduced to a flummoxed, selfish child who just would love for someone to tell him what he should do. And his final decision is a non-decision entirely.

The play actually ends on a hopeful note. But it is unearned and undeserved and easy.
aaronb
Broadway Star
joined:6/3/12
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/17/13 at 03:18pm
I think I'd be happy to never see a LaBute play again.
Check out my theater blog, http://www.scribicide.com
WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel
Broadway Legend
joined:5/26/05
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/17/13 at 11:55pm
I've said some not very nice things about LaBute's work on this board before, and although I didn't really like this piece either, I didn't hate it to the degree that I've disliked some of his past projects.

When did Steph become so stupid? I don't remember Marin Ireland having to portray such an idiot. I remember Steph being a shrew and needy and a bitch, but not at all dumb. Not only has she never heard of Brown (They named a university Brown? That's the color of dog ****!), but she also hadn't heard of Kurt Vonnegut, thought there were multiple Straits of Gibraltar and thought Helen Keller was only blind.

The Helen Keller conversation just did Steph in for me, and that was in the first scene. Steph is yelling really loudly and Greg tells her, "Even Helen Keller could hear you right now." (This of course made me think of when Jessica Phillips sang to Raul, "Even Helen Keller could see through you!"- I mean LaBute took me to Leap of Faith here!) Then Steph was like, "That blind girl? What do you mean?" Greg had to explain that she was also deaf and dumb- "What do you mean dumb?" Steph replied. (Apparently Steph also has never sung along to, "That deaf, dumb and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball.")

Greg is supposed to be the intellectual of the group, and yet he would be attracted to this not so bright girl? Not to mention all she does is yell at him and call him an a$$hole and dickhead. And she's SO needy and manipulative. It really becomes misogynistic after a while.

Greg of course is flawed, but still our loveable hero we're supposed to be rooting for. I don't like Greg though, and it has nothing to do with Hamilton's performance (or Sadoski's performance before that). I feel like he gets let off the hook for all his actions. Hamilton does his best to make us understand Greg's actions or lack of action.

Carly and Kent worked better for me in this play than in reasons to be pretty, but that might be more to do with the actors than the text. Steven Pasquale was just an angry, homophobic brute that was a true douche bag. There was nothing redeeming about the character he presented to us. Weller played Kent more for laughs and showed us a softer, emotional side to the character.

Leslie Bibb is such a vast improvement over Piper Perabo, and she had the only character that wasn't making stupid, selfish, manipulative choices. Carly was underwritten, but I felt for her at the end. I wanted Carly and Kent to be happy, but I just wanted to rush the stage and punch Greg and Steph in the face (or instead of violence maybe just duct tape their mouths shut!).

I can totally see a third play coming after this, and we almost need one to get some closure with these people. My friend and I both thought this felt like the middle play of a trilogy, and we could see all three of them playing in rep somewhere in 10 years.
Marie: Don't be in such a hurry about that pretty little chippy in Frisco. Tony: Eh, she's a no chip!
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/18/13 at 12:15am
I hope my opinions don't color your experience- as it appears our thoughts are pretty much in sync here.

The first scene bothered me from the get go- they're arguing in parking lot. Greg, just get in your goddamn car and drive, well, ANYWHERE ELSE.

And I feel like the end would've been so much more... final and deserved had it felt more... final? Like, by Greg making his decision, he has burnt his bridges with everyone in the play and cannot come back.
WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel
Broadway Legend
joined:5/26/05
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/18/13 at 12:30am
The first scene brings up two points that bother me with a lot of these plays where people stand around arguing and yelling at each other. Firstly, why don't any of the characters ever leave the room (or in this case parking lot)? No one I know fights like this in real life; when you're really going at it with someone you don't take the time to discuss whether Helen Keller was only blind, or when you say you're drawing a line in the sand you don't stop to explain you don't mean an actual line in sand!

Secondly, for a group of people who can't stop saying they love and care about each other, all they do is fight and call each other fvcking a$$holes. Why do they even want to spend time with each other? I don't have anyone in my life, let alone any I call I friend, that I would treat in the way these characters treated each other. There becomes such a believability issue.

The only relationship I actually bought was between Greg and Kent oddly enough. Even though they don't have much in common, they were co-workers for so long, and I think you can form a bond of friendship in a working environment with people who are very dissimilar to you.

Kad, I found your analysis to be spot on, and both my friend and I came to the same conclusions you did as we discussed the play afterward.

As much as I don't like LaBute's plays I have to admit they give me a lot to talk about.

Marie: Don't be in such a hurry about that pretty little chippy in Frisco. Tony: Eh, she's a no chip!
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/18/13 at 01:00am
But, in my case at least, it wasn't a good discussion about themes. It was about the weaknesses of the text.

I agree with the artificiality of the arguments, too. I think that could be applied to the entirety of the play's action. Things don't happen organically. They're contrived to happen by LaBute needing them to happen.
WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel
Broadway Legend
joined:5/26/05
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/18/13 at 01:09am
It's true, my friend and I were also discussing the problems of the play and not the themes, but at least we didn't walk out just shrugging our shoulders like sometimes happens.

Regarding the ending...

SPOILERS**********************

I didn't think things were too final, or that bridges had been burned beyond repair. If both women could be still in love with him after 7 years of putting up with this crap, why wouldn't one (or both) of them follow Greg to New York!

I think the third installment will be Greg returning to the town five years later, perhaps to attend a funeral or some family function. We'll find that probably Steph followed him to New York, and now they're back together, but still dysfunctional. Maybe Kent has truly changed and Carly will take him back. Honestly the supporting characters have a much more interesting journey left to travel than they two leads.
Marie: Don't be in such a hurry about that pretty little chippy in Frisco. Tony: Eh, she's a no chip!
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/18/13 at 08:34am
That's what I meant- I just didn't phrase it well. The ending SHOULD have Greg being unable to return; but it, like you said, just seems to be setting up the possibility of a sequel. There's no question that Greg could waltz back into town and be right back where he was with both women, which is ridiculous. His big "decision" is just opting out of making a decision- very "Steps of the Palace" of him. He just shifts the choice and the burden onto the women. There's no sense he's lost or sacrificed anything to get to that point- and it certainly doesn't seem to show growth. He doesn't really make any sacrifices at all over the course of the play- it's Steph and Carly who are the ones who are able to do that. Greg is static in his selfishness, and his big epiphany isn't an epiphany at all. It's just a continuation of his selfishness. There isn't an arc.
oasisjeff
Broadway Star
joined:11/15/07
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/19/13 at 05:26pm
Last minute business travel, so I can't use my ticket for 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 28. It is the aisle seat, H2.

That seat was regular orchestra when I first bought it, but H2 has since been upgraded to a premium orchestra seat. Cost me $50, but will sell it for $45. Also, OvationTix said they can change the name on the ticket, so I will be able to change the ticket to your name, if you want (or you can just go with a ticket with my name on it, it's not like they check your ID)

This is one of three shows with a talkback, which are nearly all sold out (they haven't said who will be participating in the talkbacks yet).

Thanks!
Now t/d/b/a haterobics on here.
WiCkEDrOcKS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/13/04
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/26/13 at 12:01am
I saw it tonight and I liked it. Not to the degree that I loved REASONS TO BE PRETTY... but I still liked it. I thought the second act was much more absorbing and cohesive than the first. It's almost bizarre, though, how unlike the Steph, Kent, Greg, and Carly we met in ...PRETTY that these four characters are. I couldn't help but think to myself "okay, if LaBute is going to reexamine these characters and almost reshape and remold them into different people, then why even have us catch up with the same characters again?" When did Steph become such a dumb, annoying, cloyingly harpy bitch...? And when did Carly become so passive and calm? The men are closer to the characters in the first play, but still markedly different. I understand that we are supposed to be catching up with these people three years after PRETTY ended, but they had changed SO much that it was almost not believable to me that they were the same people.

Regardless, the first act is inconsistent, but I found the second to be much smarter and more involving. The cast is strong, but not as strong as the four Broadway cast members of PRETTY were. I'd say the weakest link was Jenna Fischer, who plays Steph as a very one-note character, not finding much depth in the role (although the fault of that could also be blamed on LaBute for suddenly making her very one-dimensional...but Fischer is talented enough to fight against that and make us root for her. I didn't.)

I like LaBute a lot...so I would imagine if you enjoy his writing, you'll like the show. And if you don't this definitely will not be your cup of tea. It's certainly a lot better than THE BREAK OF NOON, which was his last new work I saw and was not a fan of at all. But I definitely wouldn't say I enjoyed it as much as REASONS TO BE PRETTY.
Current Avatar: Tony-winner Idina Menzel, delivering a sucker-punch of an 11:00 number, "Always Starting Over," in IF/THEN.
Updated On: 5/26/13 at 12:01 AM
April Saul
Broadway Legend
joined:2/17/06
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/27/13 at 12:23am
I'm with wicked here. Much better than Break of Noon, but not nearly as good as Reasons to Be Pretty. Jenna's performance is extremely one-note, and I don't know whether she could have been expected to overcome the part as written on the page...but as the play unfolds, it's very difficult to buy the idea that Greg would rather be with this person than with the Carly, played with great appeal by Leslie Bibb.

For me, the best performance by far was Frederick Weller's; man, that guy is good, and whenever he was on stage, I was riveted. Reasons to Be Happy was by no means boring and I don't regret seeing it, but as another poster in this thread noted, to see these characters flailing here after experiencing some serious self-realization in Reasons to Be Pretty was really a downer, and didn't make a lot of sense to me in a sequel.
cglaid
Broadway Star
joined:6/8/08
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/30/13 at 10:52am
i thought i liked reasons to be pretty, but based on how much i despised reasons to be happy, i am now doubting myself. i had really high hopes for this play (total girl crush on leslie bibb) and the first scene started out strong, but then it completely trainwrecked from there.

the females are wildly miscast. jenna fischer felt too old to be playing this hot mess, potty mouthed sort of psycho. her character felt unredeemable from square one. and leslie bibb as this blue collar security guard (?) night shift manager? no way. i nearly laughed when i first saw her in her uniform, complete with a nightstick. and the guy playing kent? he was a caricature. why did he play him as if he were missing half his chromosomes? i understand kent is kind of a mess, but good lord, he made a mockery of the character. i will give him props by saying during his big moment in act two (when he somehow went from working at the factory to being a middle school gym teacher?) someone's phone went off and rang and rang during the height of his speech. while it took the entire audience out of the moment, he kept composed and continued as ever the professional.

and now there's greg, who i thought at least kept the play together in the beginning. he was the strongest of the four and the only character you could kind of hold on to to get you through the play (sure he was flawed and messed up, but he did a good job of making that okay-ish). but then that last scene (SPOILERS***) with him, carly and steph - the play just completely collapsed on itself, if it hadn't already. the whole scene is so wildly stupid - hey, let's all be bff's and move to new york where i decided my dream job is to teach english/lit at montessauri (isn't that an elementary school?) and we can be a nonsexual YET at least threesome and see where it goes. the whole idea is so absurd that i think leslie bibb was mortified to be even a part of that scene. i think she was trying not to laugh through the whole scene and get the heck off the stage.

sorry for my rant. i don't usually post things on here but i want to say STAY AWAY from this show. it was maybe the most ill-spent $30 ever.

also, one last thought. the gay and asian digs made the audience so uncomfortable. they were completely unnecessary. and i am incredibly liberal and have a fairly open sense of humor, but my back tightened every time they were said. and steph struggling to remember who martin luther king jr was and all the confusion surrounding the authors/books greg read? okay, i get that not everyone has read vonnegut or whoever, but to not even hear of him? please.

i repeat. save your money.
After Eight
Broadway Legend
joined:6/5/09
REASONS TO BE HAPPY previews?
Posted: 5/30/13 at 11:23am
Eglaid,

Montessori schools offer an alternative educational model.

As for the play, it has its flaws, but there was some brittle dialogue and sharp humor. I agree that the character of Steph rang false, and to a degree, Kent as well. Her ignorance, in particular, lacked credibility. As the evening wore on, I kind of lost patience with Greg's wishy-washiness, as well.

I found it to be less abrasive than Reasons to Be Pretty.

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