Happy Now?

Yes, We Are

By Bob and Karen Isaacs

One of the best plays we’ve had the opportunity to view this season is at the Yale Repertory Theater in the American premiere production of Lucinda Coxon’s brilliant examination of contemporary mores, Happy Now?

This English comedy is sharply directed by YRT’s resident director Liz Diamond and excellently interpreted by the seven person cast on a clever setting designed by Sarah Pearline using many of the accoutrements of the Rep stage.

The play centers around two professional couples in their early 40s and their gay friend as they confront the realities of their lives and their choices which they had been convinced would bring them happiness.

The central figure is Kitty, beautifully played by Mary Bacon, an executive in an agency fighting cancer; she is also the major support of her family since her husband, Johnny (Kelly AuCoin), left a lucrative law firm to teach English. Then there are their friends, Bea (Katharine Powell) and Miles (Quentin Maré); he’s a lawyer and a functional drunk, and she is a mousey, housewife. Add in Carl (Brian Keane), Kitty’s gay friend and June (Joan MacIntosh), her demanding, hypochondriac mother. Plus two unseen children and an unseen dying father and you realize that Kitty is a perfect example of the tension-filled working woman of the “sandwich” generation.

What sets her questioning her life’s choices is an encounter with Michael (David Andrew MacDonald), who hits on her at a conference where they are both making presentations. She may be horrified at his obvious approach, but his recognition of her as attractive, sexual woman also fascinates her.

The pressures of Kitty’s life continue to build; Miles ends up moving in with her and Johnny after Bea finally kicks him out. Johnny seems overly preoccupied with his classes and Miles, avoiding her and the kids just as he did as a higher paid lawyer, and all too willing to criticize her. Kitty questions if this was the happy life she anticipated.

Only two of the men in Kitty’s life are not demanding, little boys; Carl who is ready and willing to listen and understand, and the roué Michael.

Lucinda Coxon has a very sharp vision of the lives her contemporaries live, part of which is the fact that they are economically secure but psychologically insecure. What you are left with at the end is the questioning title of the play, Happy Now?

The playwright avoids making this either a sitcom or an obvious diatribe. She raises the issues and creates flesh and blood characters that you care about and wonder about afterwards. What will Kitty do? What can she change in her life and will she make the changes? You really want to know because much of this reflects on our lives.

Diamond’s direction and the exceptional acting make this play well worth seeing.

Yale Rep’s production of Happy Now? is at the Yale Rep Theatre, 1120 Chapel St., in New Haven through Nov.15. For tickets and information contact the box office, 203-432-1234, or online at www.yalerep.org.

This review appeared in Shore Publications.

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