Review by Tulis McCall
10 Feb 2010
At the intermission for this slow and painful production, a woman in back of me said in a New York Voice, “What I don’t understand is why anyone would want to watch a play about these people. They are ALL morons! MORONS! I’m, gonna write these people a letter.” No doubt her letter is on its way, and I suppose you could think of this review as mine.
The premise of this play is very, very appealing. A woman with a career, 2.0 children, a husband, a sick father from whom she is more or less estranged, and a mother who is self absorbed on a very high level, looks at her life and says, “Is this really really MY life?”
Now, the reason she does this is because a stranger makes a pass at her at a convention. This is no ordinary pass. Michael (the excellent C.J.Wilson) tells her without shame that he loves women, loves to love women, and is of the opinion that they love to be made love to by his own self. It has nothing to do with his marriage, of which he thinks highly. It is simply something that he does. Furthermore, he expects that Kitty (Mary Bacon), after rebuffing him, will think about him later on and choose to accept his offer because she is a woman whose husband doesn’t kiss her anymore, she is a woman stretched thin by life and she is a woman with more responsibilities than delights.
This is a promising scene and a terrific setup for the play.
What follows, however is just plain odd. It is as though a top notch tour guide began a tour with an intriguing premise of what you might find in a particular mansion, then led the entire group out the door to a park where people in rehab were having a daily stroll. The people are remote and barely relate to one another in complete sentences, and it might be fun for 15 minutes or so, but it doesn’t stop you wondering what you are missing back in that old house.
So it is with this play. Once the premise is set up between Michael and Kitty, Lucinda Coxon does whatever she can do to drag you from the promised tryst. Everyone around Kitty is showing signs of being dysfunctional (except her offstage children to whom she throws dinner and desert) and we are made to watch. Finally, when all the air has been beaten out of the play, we are back with Kitty and Michael who again have an intriguing scene, but by that time we are too tired to care.
Liz Diamond’s direction production is in lockstep with the text – disjointed and lacking continuity. Someone gets drunk in 10 minutes of downing a bottle of wine. Living room and kitchen borders blur so that confidential moments are mixed into public moments. Both Bacon and Joan MacIntosh (June) rely on mugging when they don’t have anything better to do. Accents drift in and out. Most of the props are stored in clever closets onstage, but when Michael is forced to change into a bathrobe behind a “door,” and then pull two drinks out of the same closet, the continuity collapses.
Nothing much changes in these people’s lives. Details pile upon details signifying nothing. When enough details pile up and there is a shift, these characters’ wheels never make it out of the ruts they have created. Still, that is no reason not to write about them. Think of all the extraordinary plays that have been written about people who are on the verge of losing the battle with The Great Nothing. O’Neill, Williams, Miller….
Happy Now? is not one of those great plays. Not even close.
"Tart, entertaining and ultimately haunting comedy."
Charles Isherwood for New York Times
"Feels as scattered and confused as its heroine."
David Sheward for Back Stage
"Provides a lot of laughs, more than a few of them bitter, from the absurdities of shared domestic life and parenting."
Jennifer Farrar for Associated Press
"The parts prove more satisfying than the whole of the piece."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...