Sunday, December 2, 2012

New Theatre: Happy (4 reviews)

New Theatre opened its production of Robert Caisley's Happy on November 30, 2012.
This comic play captures just how vicious and enviable some can be of people possessed with a natural "joie de vivre."

HAPPY by Robert Caisley is a Eugene O’Neill and Woodward/Newman finalist and is having its National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere along with Montana Repertory Theatre, New Jersey Repertory Company and 6th Street Playhouse
Ricky J  Martinez directed a cast that included Scott Douglas Wilson, Maria Corina Ramirez, Ernesto Miyares, and Jessica Marion Welch.

Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:
New Theatre has a winner here, with its National New Play Network rolling world premiere of Happy, by Robert Caisley. A good play, good actors, good direction.
Scott Douglas Wilson pops up in piece after piece around town and it's easy to see why. He's an easy, everyman actor, disappearing completely into his roles. Ernesto Miyares is a thoroughly grounded actor; no tricks, just solid. Maria Corina Ramirez and Jessica Marion Welch, although less experienced than the others, each offer perfectly believable portraits
Ricky J. Martinez directs these four admirable actors with a fine hand. Each brings just the right touch as the wine is poured and the secrets are spilled.

Once John Thomason tells us the story of the play, he eventually reviewed for The Miami New Times:
Director Ricky J. Martinez stages Alfred and Eva's interactions so they appear like two animals sizing each other up for the first time, with Eva the predatory aggressor and Alfred the curious but cowering submissive. Ramirez is very good in these scenes, but Wilson is better, especially when he's given nothing to do. Making the most of the play's embedded beats — lengthy, awkward moments of stupefying disconnection — Wilson punctuates them with seemingly endless reserves of nervous laughter and subtle flinches.
Caisley intended his play to be "a comedy until it stopped being one," and he successfully engineers a transition from uncomfortable comedy of un-manners to full-blown psychodrama — doing so in a much more elegant and complex way than Yasmina Reza's similar God of Carnage.
There are imperfections in this piece, as is often the case with new works...  But the result is certainly a triumph for the show's two leads. Ramirez is an inscrutable mask of certifiable vindictiveness and faux hurt whose monstrousness can yield sudden turns into riotous comedy, and Wilson is her tragic patsy who never looks like he's acting.
But Thomason does go on to make a totally inane statement: must be said: This is another flustered-nice-guy role for the increasingly typecast Wilson, who in recent years has contributed similar tones to The Pillowman, Winter, and The Drawer Boy. I would like to see him accept a part that is completely outside his wheelhouse.
I'm sure Mr. Wilson would love to be challenged by a role "outside his wheelhouse," but that's not Mr. Wilson's choice, John. DIRECTORS cast shows. I doubt Mr. Wilson has been turning down roles, whether or not they are "in his wheelhouse."  You can't accept roles you haven't been offered, and theatre directors are notoriously conservative.  We're more likely to see Burt Reynolds shed his toupee than to start seeing directors cast far against type.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Happiness, that much-desired yet slippery state, becomes a contentious emotional concept in the New Theatre premiere of Robert Caisley’s provocative new play Happy.
Caisley’s script is funny, deliberately unnerving, full of smart dialogue and stinging rejoinders.
Director Ricky J. Martinez has cast and staged Happy unerringly, also contributing the production’s sleek set design (the key art on the walls is by Theresa Marie Callouri). Wilson, a busy actor who teaches at Miami’s New World School of the Arts, gives a warm, amusing, intense performance as a man pushed over an emotional edge. Ramirez, a young New World grad, creates a pathological manipulator who’s nonetheless tough to resist.

Caisley, who teaches playwriting at the University of Idaho, was in New Theatre’s audiences over his play’s opening weekend. He’ll doubtless learn things from each of the script’s four productions, but what Martinez, Wilson, Ramirez and company have created should send him home happy.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
New Theatre’s production is not an evening you “like” watching an “emotional terrorist” spend 80 minutes mercilessly carving away a nebbish’s illusion of well-being. But even with a flawed mounting of a script that still needs work, Happy is undeniably an intriguing examination of modern man burying true feelings under a socially-acceptable but life-denying veneer.
As with much in this work under Ricky J. Martinez’s direction, it’s not clear whether Caisley endorses or condemns or just wants to spotlight the present-day prevailing philosophy of “go along to get along” as a way to keep the machinery of social interaction churning smoothly.
The other virtue that must be mentioned early on is the creation of the aforementioned characters by Caisley, Martinez and actors Scott Douglas Wilson and Maria Corina Ramirez, fearlessly presenting complex creatures for whom the word quirky does not begin to suffice.
...New Theatre has made a courageous choice of unsettling and challenging material, and Martinez embraces it, never shying from the fact that every character here is flawed and Eva, in particular, is abrasive and unlikeable.
...kudos are due Wilson and Ramirez. Wilson pulls off the considerable challenge of making the audience plug into this likable nerd with the nervous grim and hapless demeanor. Somehow, Wilson’s charm keeps us from getting tired of his unfailing sanguinity... Ramirez’s character is so acerbic, so mercurial, so sadistic that it is a miracle that Ramirez makes her seem almost honorable. To enable the comedy, both characters are written to dance on the edge of being cartoons, but somehow these two actors make them credible as well. Both also take Martinez’s direction and are unafraid of pauses for comic timing or just plain silences.
New Theatre presents the world premiere of Happy through December 16, 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment