Primary Stages at 59 E 59 Theatres usually offers some fine theatrical presentations and so I was anxious to see Happy Now? A British import written by Lucinda Coxon that has had productions at The National Theatre in London and more recently at the Yale Repertory Theatre.
Happy Now? I think not after sitting through two hours worth of wondering how Kitty, (Mary Bacon) the heroine of the piece, in a series of incidents was going to manage the difficulties of juggling all that she has to do and remain sane. I left with a headache. Insufferable is the word that comes to mind. Has she never seen A Doll’s House?
Kitty works for a cancer research charity. Her boss has cancer, doubling her work load. Her self absorbed, irritating mother (Joan MacIntosh) has an infected tooth and a cough and lays on the guilt. Her father (unseen), long separated from his wife, is hospitalized with amputation looming. Her husband (Kelly AuCoin) has changed careers (from law firm to teaching) to spend more time with their two heard but not seen off-stage children. Her best friend’s marriage is on the rocks: Miles (Quentin Mare) a cynical alcoholic and Bea (Kate Arrington) who suffers his insults while pondering the choice of a new color scheme. He eventually moves in with Kitty and her husband. She has a gay friend (Brian Keane) who adds some wit to her life but has his own love problems with a younger man. Shades of Will and Grace. Kitty must travel to conventions and it is there that she meets Michael (C.J. Wilson) – who in all honesty tries to seduce her. Nervous, she hesitates. She stays but doesn’t give in. This is the best and first scene of the play. All else that follows doesn’t live up to the potential that is set up here. And it is not a question of if but when will we see them together again. He offers a solution. Will she take the bait?
The action supposedly takes place in today’s London. But the play sounds as if it had been written years ago. Kitty, one would think, if faced with these problems today would have a firmer grip on her life, take action and wind up happy rather than trying to fit a fitness plan into her life on top of everything else. Can she have it all and be happy? She probably could if she took action.
Director, Liz Diamond hasn’t decided whether this is a naturalistic drama or some strange dreamscape that Kitty is traveling through, directing with a leaden touch (actors miming dialogue?) and having June, the mother, act as if she were in some restoration comedy – completely out of style and sync with her fellow actors.
Not even the fine acting abilities of Mary Bacon (whom I thought fantastic in The Late Christopher Bean) can rise above this material. As the would-be seducer, Mr. Wilson is excellent and charming. As are Quentin Mare and Kate Arrington as the other couple in distress. Brian Keane as the token gay somehow seems added in for all the wrong reasons although there is nothing wrong with his performance.
What is wrong is the play itself. Through March 6th. www.primarystages.org Photos: James Leynse