Spencer headed to New York a few days ago to see Jenna Fischer in Neil LaBute’s Off-Broadway play “Reasons To Be Happy”. Here’s an excerpt from her personal blog about the show:
…After that I headed to the restaurant where Carly [fellow The Office and Jenna fan] works to get some lunch. I ended up just hanging out until the end of her shift, after which we headed to the West Village [which is] pretty awesome. It’s quiet, with lots of green space, trendy restaurants with patios, a place where you can go and play board games for $1 an hour (we totally did this, btw), shops, and tons of interesting folks about. We wandered for a bit, played an Office themed game of Scrabble, grabbed some dinner, and then headed to the Lucille Lortel Theatre to see the first preview performance of the play Reasons To Be Happy.
I thought Reasons To Be Happy was excellent. It’s a play by Neil LaBute, and is a sequel to the his previous work Reasons To Be Pretty. A familiarity with Pretty may be helpful when watching Happy, but isn’t essential, I don’t think. The show follows its four characters (played by Jenna Fischer, Leslie Bibb, Josh Hamilton, and Fred Weller) through a complicated relationship crisis.
Each scene alternates between a basic set that takes the form of numerous locations using only two benches, coloured lighting, and a small collection of props; and a second, much more detailed set which slides forward and backward, that is the break room of two of the characters workplace. The scenes are broken up with a darkened stage and loud boom of rock music, including several Nirvana songs.
Hamilton, who plays the lead character Greg, appears in every scene of the two hour show and does an incredible job. I liked Greg, even though at several points during the show I didn’t want to. The sincerity of the character makes you feel bad for him, rather than angry at him, when he’s unable to make decisions on the messy situation he’s put himself in.
Bibb, playing the role of Carly, was delightful to watch. Carly goes through the ringer in this show, and Bibb transitions through her characters emotional journey seamlessly. I wanted Carly to come out on top, and I think in her own way she did.
Weller played Kent, the ex-husband of Carly and best friend of Greg. I honestly don’t know what I thought of this character. At first I was annoyed by him, and then I started to like him, and then I felt bad for him. Weller seemed a little over animated, which didn’t quite fit with the sombre feeling of the rest of the show.
Jenna Fischer played Steph and rocked it. Though I suppose my adoring her makes this declaration a bit bias… ; )
Seriously though, I love seeing Jenna in roles that are completely different from anything we’ve seen her in before, and Steph definitely fits that bill. She’s abrasive, swears like a sailor, and initially has very unclear motives that make you unsure of how to take her. I wasn’t sure if I even liked Steph until the second half of the show, when a very touching moment happens between her and Greg that made me trust what she was saying.
Steph is also pretty angry, which is something we don’t get to see Jenna play often. Though a few scenes from films like A Little Help and The Giant Mechanical Man come to mind, her characters have never been quite as consistently aggressive as Steph. She yells, she hits, and she swears throughout the entire show. And, naturally, Jenna is able to show about a million and a half emotions on her face while simply standing to the side watching other characters, which happens in the final scene.
Of course what I saw was the first night of previews, meaning there’s likely to be a pile of changes between now and opening night on June 11th. It’d be really interesting to go back and see the show after that to compare, but I don’t think I’ll be lucky enough to find a $5 bus ticket (no, seriously, I paid $5 for my return ticket!) again, which is basically my budget!
After the show Carly and I went and hung out by the stage door with a few other folks. The cast came out and were all really sweet and chatted with everyone for a bit. Jenna said that after the show ended she was flustered and didn’t even hug her costars, just ran straight for a brownie, which made everyone laugh. She chatted, signed Playbills, took photos, thanked everyone for coming, and then had to run off to the cast party. We took a couple photos, but they’re terrible, so I won’t be posting them anywhere! lol
After that we headed back to Carly’s place to watch the series finale of The Office, which was, you know, emotionally magnificent. When it ended we both sat there and cried. I’m really happy I was able to watch the finale with a fellow fan. I knew of Carly from another fandom years before I even started watching The Office, and I’m pretty sure she’s the first person I ever spoke to online in The Office community. So, it was really, really nice to be able to share that with her.
Friday was a late start, as we didn’t finish watching the finale until around 3am. We headed in to the city around lunchtime, had a bit of an adventure learning how Canadians cash cheques in US banks, and then said goodbye when she headed off to work.
On a whim I had a look on the MCC site and found I could get a super cheap single ticket (thank you under 30 discounts!) to that night’s performance of RTBH, and since my bus wasn’t leaving until midnight and I figured I won’t be getting back to see it again, I thought “why not” and grabbed it. So, I headed back to the West Village.
It was really interesting to see that there were already some changes in the show between the first and second night:
- Weller toned down Kent quite a bit, which I thought really improved my view on the character.
- Some of the music between scenes changed.
- Jenna’s costume in one of the scenes was different, though I’m not sure if something like that would have been an actual change, or if there were simply multiple costume options for that particular scene.
- They seemed to remove a number of props that caused spillage on the first night. For instance, Jenna stepped on a prop that on the first night caused a tiny liquid explosion and required someone to go and wipe up the stage between scenes. However, on the second night there didn’t seem to be any mess, which of course makes sense to opt for! This happened again in another scene where 2 take away cups and a bag are thrown away and Josh Hamilton fishes the bag out. There must have actually been liquid in the cups on the first night because the bag was sopping wet. However, on the second night the bag was completely dry.
- The name of a shop referenced changed from the first to the second night. On the first night is was “Costco”, while the second night was something I’d never heard of beginning with an “A”.
Curtain Call Friday Night | Faceless Cast