Review of Happy Now? - Nobody is Happy Here

From across the pond comes Lucinda Coxon’s Happy Now?  In regards to how I felt about the play, I would have to say no, not exactly.  Directed by Roger Smart and presented to Chicago by the Shattered Globe Theater, it is pretty much a given here that the on stage characters are not just unhappy, but are downright miserable.   And who can blame them as all around them marriages crumble, parents sicken, and careers place never ending demands.  It really is no wonder that in the face of all this they consider infidelity while drinking away the gloom. 

Christian Gorman (Kitty), Steve Peebles (Johny), and Drew Schad (Miles)

It is not as if everything in this production is as dreary as the title.  The opening scene featuring Christina Gorman (Kitty) fending off the talented Ben Werling (as the lecherous and older Michael) was as engaging as anything I have recently seen on stage. Both actors played wonderfully off each other and when a hand is placed upon a knee the entire audience leaned it to see what would happen next.  In hindsight though, that first scene probably set the bar too high for what followed.  It is not that the production does not have its strengths.  Drew Schad (Miles), for example, puts in a solid and believable performance (to go along with the efforts of Cortney McKenna and Linda Reiter).  The script also appears witty enough to serve up some humor to go along with the existential angst.  It is just that for a play as dark and character driven as Happy Now? to work, all the parts have to work together as a whole.  Unfortunately that is not the case here as inconsistent accents along with over the top sound and light effects repeatedly distract from the story. 

Christian Gorman (Kitty) and Karack Osborn (Carl)

Another big distraction to the play is the incredibly over worked stage setting.  We get that modern life is choking the characters on stage.  There really is no need then for hanging phones and papers cascading from the stage.  Worse, the multi-tiered stage effectively hid one key scene due to the action occurring at the feet of the first row.  From my perch half way up the balcony it was all disembodied cries. 

Linda Reiter (June) and Christina Gorman (Kitty)

All of this left me wanting for a stripped down version of the same script.  It would also be interesting to see it set in Chicago instead of London.  That might make me a bit happier.

Cortney McKenna (Bea), Christina Gorman (Kitty), and Karack Osborn (Carl)

Bottom Line:  Happy Now? is somewhat recommended for its witty dialogue.  Although the play does not always work out as exactly as one would hope, there are some gems throughout the play.  Happy Now? is currently playing at Stage 773 (1225 W. Belmont) Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8; Sundays at 3 through March 2ndTickets range from $28 to $10 for students with valid IDs.  Performances for February 14-17 are $15 when using the code “THWEEK.”  For more information or to purchase tickets visit www.shatterglobe.org/ For more information related to this as well other theater occurring in Chicago, visit www.theaterinchicago.com/ .

Photos by:  Kevin Viol

 

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