In this weekly feature, WCBS culture critic Jim Taylor shares 30 seconds with the theatre stars and upstarts of NYC. From Broadway to Off-off, Jim tracks down the talent and gets them to spill just enough for our collectively shortened attention spans.
Playwright Neil Labute is a busy guy. With two productions going in two different cities, how could he have time to chat with us? Given his most recent lashing out at a critic who gave a less-than-kind review (essentially calling him a portly eunuch in the comment section), maybe we’re fortunate. Anyway, LaBute’s latest is Reasons to Be Happy, the companion piece to his cringingly good reasons to be pretty.
Warning: this is probably not a good first-date play. Once again, the wonderfully cynical LaBute dissects the male-female push-pull with scalpel-like precision. It’s about the things that inexplicably draw us to one another. Scenes come and go with jarring rock chords and some very obnoxious sound effects serving to punctuate the uneasy atmosphere. It’s full-throttle sexual politics in this high-energy production directed by the playwright. He’s got tensions at the max immediately. The play starts abruptly, just as reasons to be pretty did, with screaming obscenities. So it may not be the thing for your great aunt either. But it is brilliantly acted (The Office‘s Jenna Fischer makes her stage debut), and very real. We all know couples like these: tormented by each other, doomed to repeat their vicious cycles… and yet. There is hope here. There are reasons to be happy.