Recommended *** There are times we hear the statement “Well, back to the drawing board!”. For most of us, this is just a saying that indicates that whatever we are doing must be re-thought. Playwright Neil LaBute, who is the resident Artist at Profiles Theatre in the Uptown neighborhood, a man who has brought us some very intense works over his years, has decided to do just that. In 2009, LaBute had a play titles “Reasons To Be Pretty”. The characters in his new play, “Reasons to Be Happy” are these people from the earlier play, and yet, even if you have no idea about the previous work, you will enjoy what is being presented on their stage. This is a four character play that deals with relationships and in some ways, how we see ourselves in a different light than others.
Slickly directed by Darrell W. Cox, this is a somewhat serious story that has many comic moments. As the 90 minute play ( no intermission) opens, we are in what appears to be the cashier section at a Costco where Steph (a solid performance by Domenica Cameron-Scorses and her ex boyfriend Greg (deftly handled by Eric Burgher) are in a heated argument. Turns out that after their break-up, Greg turned to Steph’s girlhood “best friend” Carly (the incredible Sarah Loveland) for solace and sex. While Steph has married, she finds that these actions are not to be tolerated, and that now that Greg is with Carly, Carly will not even return a phone call.
Carly’s ex-husband, Kent (Dennis Bisto) works at the same company as Carly, and is very jealous. Greg used to work with them, but has opted for a career change and is now a substitute teacher, waiting for a real position. Carly and Kent have a little girl, who it turns out Greg adores. So now you have the scenario! Two women, who were friends, having had or now having a relationship with the same man, while the ex-husband (a true “loser”) watches from the outside, steaming mad!.
LaBute searched deep within to bring these relationships out in the open, but as solid as his writing is, in this particular case, I was a bit let down by the way he ended it. Perhaps, he is going back to the “drawing board” again for the “reasons to be unhappy”- who knows? Just kidding! The play moves quickly and with Cox, you know that the tension will mount somewhere during the play. It just has to. He has a young, recent graduate from N.U. assisting him with this one (Scott Wolf), who may just find he will learn more working with the Profiles people than the four years in school. Remember that name. I am sure it will not be long before he goes solo!
While I enjoyed watching these four actors bring LaBute’s words to life, I was a bit sorry that the “F” word was used as often as it was. In fact, the language in this play tends to be a little brasher than usual even for Profiles). Again, the story is about a man who is somewhat lost. Greg is seeking happiness, but has no direction as to where he needs to be in order to get it. From the argument in Costco, Steph and Greg find that they miss each other and Steph wants to run away from her marriage to re-up with Greg. Greg thinks he might be in love with Carly and her daughter, but when confronted by Steph, becomes wishy-washy about what he must do. There are some extra surprises in this arena as well.
I was a bit thrown as to why these ladies both wanted this man. He is nothing special. he has nothing special to offer. Yet, two attractive women find themselves eager to change their lives to make him happy, which I think means they can find happiness with. But can he find happiness? Is Greg true to anyone, even himself ,and as the curtain (a term used in the theater as there is no curtain at Profiles) falls, will he indeed find the elusive happiness he is searching for?
The overall production, from start to finish, is sharp and clean. Shaun Renfro has divided the stage into three sections for the action, mostly the break room and restaurants, but each area of action allows us to feel what the actors are feeling at that particular moment. Profiles is always able to make a small stage feel much larger. The sound and original music by Jeffrey Levin work well with the lighting by Claire Chrzan to bring the moods to fit with the action and Raquel Adorno’s costumes are the finishing touch.
Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m.
Saturday 5 and 8 p.m.
Sunday at 7 p.m.
Tickets range from $35-$40 with a $5 discount for Seniors and Students. Tickets can be purchased by calling 773-549-1815 or online at www.profilestheatre.org
Public transportation is the easiest way to get to the theater as parking is tough. There is a lot at 4100 N. Clarendon ( at BellePlaine) at $14-$16
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Reasons To Be Happy”