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Kent State Stark Theatre's season will close with "Reasons to Be Happy" by contemporary film director Neil LaBute (Lakeview Terrace, Death at a Funeral). Performances run Friday through Sunday at Stark Theatre.
"It's edgy, in-your-face very well-written material," said Brian Newberg, Stark Theatre director, who selected and directed LaBute's play.
"Reasons to Be Happy" is the sequel to LaBute's 2009 Tony-nominated Broadway "Reasons to Be Pretty" and features the same four characters three years later in different romantic pairings. The story follows four 20-somethings as they become entangled in one another's lives in romantic, humorous and sometimes violent ways.
"It's dramatically exciting to have these young characters played by young actors," Newberg said.
In the opening scene, Greg (freshman Samuel Marazita) is confronted by his ex-wife, Steph (freshman Morgan Brown), because she finds out he's in a relationship with her best friend, Carly (junior Emily Weiss), a single mom whose ex-husband Kent (Jonathan Cox) has trouble articulating his feelings.
"It's this crazy love polygon," Marazita said. "I'm basically getting yelled at by my ex even though she's remarried. It brings up all these old feeling and there's this emotional tension between the characters. It's very interesting."
Marazita decided to double major in theatre and education after taking Newberg's acting class this semester. He said "Reasons to Be Happy" is "unlike anything I've ever done."
Newberg, whose credits include Broadway, likes to select plays of all genres to premiere at Stark Theatre. LaBute's playwright is for mature audiences only due to strong language.
"We're an educational theatre, but we don't shy away from controversial themes and language," Newberg said. "This script has a lot of strong language. I don't want people to be offended. It's edgy and in-your-face."