When Neil LaBute names a play "Reasons to Be Happy," one has to ask, "Hey, what's the catch?" Happiness is never what it appears in the twisty, vicious serious-comedies by this famously devious and prolific dark star of American theater.
At least that used to be true. In this new work, a sequel -- with different good actors and capital letters -- to his 2008 "reasons to be pretty," the play is a surprisingly straightforward and awfully mundane relationship drama about four working-class people with what-does-it-all-mean? crises.
Jenna Fischer, best known as sweet Pam on "The Office," is here a clingy, complicated, angry woman. She wants to get back with her old boyfriend -- the always terrific Josh Hamilton -- who reads books and wants to better himself. He is dating her best friend (Leslie Bibb), newly separated from a cheating primal jerk (Fred Weller). Understandably, LaBute appears to be working to escape his reputation for shock endings. Alas, the alternative, at this point, is pretty dull.
WHAT "Reasons to Be Happy"
WHERE Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St.
INFO $69-$89; 212-352-3101; mcctheater.org
BOTTOM LINE LaBute without a twist