This blog is not about theater critique, it’s about process. But in the discovery of what works and what doesn’t, sooner or later it will become necessary to render an opinion about a play.
I had it my head to go see “Escape From Happiness” at the Ooley Theater in Midtown. I went because the Ooley is small, I’d never been there so thought I should check it out, and I was familiar with some of the cast. Plus it was opening night and I wanted to have some bragging rights on having been at opening night. It was sold out, but I went anyway and got a cancellation ticket. I was front row, which put me about 10 feet away from the actors.
One of the things I really enjoy about theater is the unexpected enjoyment of watching a play that works really well. I don’t have a long history of going to plays, but it does seem to me that theater has a lot of risk for both audience and actors (and no doubt for those behind the scenes). Just like the high wire act at the circus, or inside the cage with the big cats, it’s live, and anything can happen. Laughter, embarrassment, scorn, elation, inspiration — on both sides of the stage. You just never know.
“Escape From Happiness” works really well. I would compare it to a really good wine — complex, very balanced, opens up as the evening progresses. Lots of depth, and accessible on a number of different levels. And a great finish.
The thing that struck me was that it’s a 3 hour experience. The play is 2 1/2 hours almost, plus the opening introductions and intermission and total time is about 3 hours. But it didn’t seem long; I don’t think anybody’s patience was worn out. The lesson here for me is “length” is relative; the dialog, plot and action either support the length of the play, or not.
The play is very intense; funny, but intense. The actors did a great job with some very demanding roles. Pathos and comedy, truth and consequences, responsibility and deception, all right there. Great playwriting, and a dedicated group of people.
The program notes quote the playwright (George F. Walker), who said (essentially) that he writes as a way of coping with the world around him. Indeed.
Well that’s it for now. Thanks for stopping by, and have a great day.