Thursday, May 23, 2019



Prolific and enigmatic Samuel Beckett was an Irish playwright who often wrote in French. Most well known is his mid 20th Century play "Waiting for Godot." Beckett's HAPPY DAYS reflects even more simply and directly the futility of life and of forging on.. continuing...  regardless.  I sometimes use the phrase, "not for the feint (sic) of heart" when reviewing shows that may be a challenge.  In fact, the couple sitting in front of us took a hike after Act I.  
In Godot, nothing happens.   Happy Days moves from the awakening bell with memories and such. Very little happens. The business of nothing is the heart of something. With director James Bundy's simply staged play on Izmir Ickbal's humongous sand hill, spilling into the first row, we soldier on.  
The audience is greeted by a gorgeous red Venetian drape with sea shell footlights. 

Curtain up:  Winne (legendary Dianne Wiest) buried up to her waist in dirt, lies face down.. asleep.  Asleep on the mound where she might have been forever.  The Bell.
"Forever" is a theme in Beckett's work that only the stout of heart might have time for. How long Winnie has been buried in the dirt with her large black bag and old friend "Brownie" (a black revolver) standing by we can only imagine.  Millie is attractive. Middle aged. Loquacious. How she's managed to prattle on for what might be forever: her flowing memoir...  doesn't matter. Here we are.  Her narration is long, with thoughtful pauses..  memories .. questions.. "Did you ever find me lovable?" she asks her soul mate, Willie (Michael Rudko).. "I know you love me.. but..."  

Through Act I, Weist is a dancer: confined in dirt.  She conducts her daily routine: the 'stuff' of her existence drawn from her big black bag. Her parasol explodes and life goes on. 

Willie is seen mostly from the back: naked, victim of a tossed elixir bottle, cloth on his naked head with his jaunty boater cocked to one side. Naked and in our imagination, guided by Winnie's specific directions, he heads back into his hole.. "crawl backwards.. hands and knees, Willie" 

Poor Willie lives somewhere beneath Winnie's barren hill top. He punctuates her monologue with snippets from the news, specific page turns, producing a "French" postcard that might remind of times when the two of them were actually together.

The timely pauses and  repetitions in Act I become problematic in Act II with Winnie now up to her neck in dirt.  Her head no longer turns.  Ms Wiest's exquisite skills,  reciting long passages expressed with only her face, her little black pillbox cocked to one side... the theme of love and futility explored.  (Bring opera glasses and hope for a seat in the center of the house for Act II!) The bell.. Does Winnie have free will? Might she awaken and sleep on her own schedule? Could she go on without the knowledge that Willie is there to hear her poetic ramblings? 
Willie appears in full evening attire, slowly crawling. Top hat on. Top hat off. Gloves. Mustache. Slowly he ascends. Crawling slowly to his love.  She cheers him on! "You want to touch my face again?" 
This has been a Happy Day.

HAPPY DAYS by Samuel Beckett
Mark Taper Forum
135 N. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Opened Wednesday, May 22, 2019 at 8 p.m.
Regular Performances (May 23 – June 30): Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., 
Saturday at 2:30 and 8 p.m., 
Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m. 
No Monday performances.
Tickets and information:
(213) 628-2772

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