Chicago Theatre Review
Profiles’ “Reasons” Hampered by Indecisiveness
Reasons to be Happy – Profiles Theatre
Neil LaBute’s “Reasons to be Happy,” the opening play in Profiles Theatre’s 26th season, is a follow-up to the playwright’s 2011 work “Reasons to be Pretty,” and that explains much of what is wrong with the play, regardless of Profiles’ efforts.
An intimate character study, “Reasons to be Happy” focuses on four characters in an industrial Midwestern town, all of whom have messy pasts further complicated by romantic woes. For starters – Greg (played by Eric Burgher) is dating Carly (played by the lovely Sarah Loveland), who used to be best friends with Steph (the somewhat hysterical Domenica Cameron-Scorsese)…who herself was involved in a past, long-term relationship with Greg; and above that is Kent (played by the charismatic Dennis Bisto), who is Carly’s ex-husband and Greg’s ex-friend. As with all LaBute plays, nuance and memory are a big part of the action, but the main thrust of the show is a simple one – though Greg and Carly are getting along fine, Greg (following an awkward run-in with Steph) is questioning his old feelings for her, and whether he wants to resume the relationship.
And that is where the problems start for “Reasons to be Happy,” as we follow Greg as he meanders around, and around, and around wondering what to do and what decisions to ultimately make. Indecisiveness is a very tricky emotion to capture in theater. Push too hard, and you annoy the audience with the character’s aimlessness and pontificating, and push too soft and you alienate them still with obfuscation and lack of depth. With “Reasons,” LaBute is guilty of the former, and by the play’s end, I was so tired of Greg’s indecisiveness that nearly lost care over what decision he ultimately made.
Finally, other problems arises in the character of Steph, and Domenica Cameron-Scorsese’s portrayal. Frankly, the character is an unlikable, volatile mess. A sympathetic one, but an unlikeable mess just the same, especially in the uncompromising hands of Cameron-Scorsese and Profiles’ excellent director Darrell W. Cox. So in the end, we’re left asking why Greg would ever consider returning to such a screaming, flailing terror, given that he’s already dating the infinitely more appealing Carly.
Would all those complaints be remedied by a viewing of “Reasons to be Pretty”? Possibly. But ultimately, it’s LaBute’s task to fill in those gaps organically, so that such questions don’t arise – and unfortunately, despite Profiles’ best efforts (as always, the staging of Jennifer Kiehl and Shaun Renfro utilize the space beautifully), those gaps show.
Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci
Presented Aug. 28 – October 12 by Profiles Theatre, 4147 North Broadway, Chicago, IL 60613
Tickets are available by calling 773-549-1815 or by visiting www.profilestheatre.org
Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable www.theatreinchicago.com.