Review: Few Reasons To Like Reasons To Be Happy

Reasons to be Happy, Hampstead Theatre ★★☆☆☆

Sophia Shluger
By Sophia Shluger Last edited 22 months ago
Review: Few Reasons To Like Reasons To Be Happy Reasons to be Happy, Hampstead Theatre 2
Warren Brown as Kent and Tom Burke as Greg. Image from the Hampstead Theatre website

Reasons to be Happy examines the complexity of intermingled relationships between four Americans but fails to convey anything meaningful except for the depressing state of dating affairs in the US.

Written by Neil Labute, the show is the second instalment in his trilogy that includes Reasons to be Pretty and a future show entitled Reasons to be Pretty Happy.

The play follows the amorous intertwinement of Greg (Tom Burke) a feeble English teacher looking for love, Steph (Lauren O’Neill) a self-centred hairdresser prone to yelling, Carly (Robyn Addison) a security guard trying to rectify her complicated past and Kent (Warren Brown) a blue-collar worker with anger management issues. Together, all four are as unstable as the shape of their self-inflicted love rhombus.

Story aside, much is exaggerated, particularly the vulgarities of the dialogue and excessive screaming matches that seem mostly for the sake of noise. For example, the portrayal of the females feels deeply problematic; the angrier Steph is in her explosive opening confrontation with her ex Greg, the 'funnier' she becomes. It leaves you feeling you've been set up to be entertained from anger itself and the pitifulness of their collective situation.

The semblance of Carly and Steph's monotone masculine voices and their male-like behaviour also feels overtly intentional, leaving them less believably female, let alone humans with real emotions.

Even the costumes can't escape the play's mire of cliché; Steph dons a pink sweater and ponytail while in her 'less aggressive' mood, and Carly wears a masculine guard uniform in scenes where she exerts great authority.

While the acting is well done and there are a few realistic scenes (mostly male bonding ones) most of it leaves you scratching your head, with dramatic moments eliciting uncomfortable laughter rather than horror from the audience.

Lighting is generally subdued and accentuated by smoke effects, while the set design, a clever shipping container that can only be described as a modular bento box, compartmentalizes the drama at hand.

Act two is more vibrant than the first and brings the plot full circle where each characters' crisis deepens further and traumatic decisions are weirdly glossed over. Nothing seems romantic nor comic upon the realization that no character should really have wanted anything from anyone in the first place.  

Reasons to be Happy is playing at the Hampstead Theatre until 23 of April. Tickets £10-£35. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 01 April 2016