"Happy Days" at the Westport Country Playhouse
By Tom Nissley
I don’t know how the Playhouse decided that this would be a good play for its subscribers to see, but an interesting production of Samuel Beckett’s "Happy Days" is playing in Westport, and you should know about it.
The play presents two persons, married for a long time, who are apparently buried deep in sand (and getting deeper) on a remote stretch of beach. Winnie can no longer see Willie, but she know he’s there and the play is a virtual monologue - she speaks at him and wishes he’d been more vocal. "You said you couldn’t live without me and ever since you’ve never said anything but little quotes from the newspaper..." Something like that.
We know they’re in a remote space because once - once only - another couple came by and treated Winnie as an object. "Why is she stuck there?" he said. "Why doesn’t someone help her out?" But they made no offer to help her out, driving home the point that life builds up around us, and no one is there to ‘help us out.’
So Winnie goes along being happy every day, toying with the objects in a bag Willie gave her once - a magnifying glass, cosmetics, even a pistol - overlooking the monstrosities that have buried her up to the neck, and clinging to the memories she’s fashioned to give meaning to her existence.
"Happy Days" is a great piece of theater history, which belongs in a class for serious students of the dramatic arts. And if we fashion ourselves as such, who can make us unhappy with a play starring Dana Ivey, accompanied by a silent Jack Wetherall? If the lights are too bright, we can all, like Winnie, just sort of grin and bear it.
The set, in this production, is intriguing, but equally hard to follow. It looks like rocks piled up, but could, removed from the magic of the magnifying glass, be just grains of sand that have been carefully collected and embraced.
If you go, try to figure that out. "Happy Days" is playing thru July 24. The run will probably not be extended.
Tickets at 203-227-4177, or www.westportplayhouse.org.
Tom Nissley, for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre