Following rave reviews in Boston, The Theatre @ Boston Court’s existential production of 'Happy Days' by Samuel Beckett starring Tony Shalhoub and Brooke Adams comes to the Flea Theater. More…
Director Andrei Belgrader re-examines this Samuel Beckett classic, newly relevant to a generation burdened by climate change and environmental doom. Brooke Adams plays Winnie, a woman buried up to her bosom in a mound of dirt with nothing to pass the time but the ragged contents of her bag, her nimble wit, and her husband Willie, played by Tony Shalhoub, lurking somewhere behind her. This droll, existential allegory demonstrates the vitality of the human spirit in the face of a deteriorating world.
"Director Andrei Belgrader understands the precarious balance of tragedy and comedy in Beckett’s work. Moreover, he has unearthed a horror that I’ve always sensed underneath the surface of Beckett’s plays but have never seen it brought to light before with such blinding clarity...That final devastating vision of long term marriage and aging, as the day — and their life together — crawl toward an inexorable end, is a truth almost too blinding to behold." Full Review
"The show is mandatory viewing, even if you’ve seen it before. Beckett’s plays gain greater resonance as you age and your own particular symbolic mound of earth creeps ever upward...The play is a powerful metaphor for the ways we struggle for happiness despite the inevitable passing of time and the punishments of life...Effectively directed by Andrei Belgrader, this is a superbly acted rendition enlivened by Adams’ fearless performance." Full Review
"Samuel Beckett’s bleak but compassionate play is being given a witty, compelling production at The Flea...As Willie, Shalhoub has a total of maybe ten minutes of activity in the two hours of the play; this is the Winnie show. Nevertheless, he manages to be hysterical, memorable, a spot-on impersonation of a member of your family...The production is the closest we’ll get to a sunny Beckett." Full Review
"These performances make the plight of Winnie and Willie seem to be less abstract than they might have once been perceived. The ringing bells that force Winnie to stay awake and alert also pull us beyond the realm of allegory. There is an intelligence behind the torment, as if the pair were undergoing some deliberately staged test of endurance...This production shows us that 'Happy Days' is most decidedly a play for our time." Full Review
"But above all what must reach us, teach and amuse us is Winnie's two-act monologue. It is an affirmation and a surrender to life. Adams, a splendid stage actress who comes prepared to instruct and amuse.... Adams also colorizes the often bleak imagery of Beckett's words without losing a beat or a blink. Hers is a performance that gets better and more touching as Beckett's brand of mockery begins to break through." Full Review
"This piece succeeds or fails on the strength of the actress playing Winnie, and Adams is very strong indeed. She keeps us in our seats for the duration of this grim journey... Whether you sit back and revel in its weirdness or lean in to unravel its many mysteries, it’s an experience you’ll be hard pressed to shake off." Full Review
"Beckett's brilliance often manifests as tedium, resulting in a test of patience and resilience for both the characters and the audience, and director Andrei Belgrader stays true to the minimalism of the concept, allowing the text to dominate. As Winnie, Brooke Adams handles the unwieldy monologue of a script with astoundingly engaging grace and humanity. As Willie, Tony Shalhoub is almost unrecognizable: dirty, almost subhuman, and equal parts fascinating and repulsive in his brief moments o... Full Review
"Happy Days is not a play for everyone. It takes it’s time demonstrating the rules of existence that can be at times unnerving with little punches of laughter. It is worth making a trip to The Flea if just to see Adam’s performance. It slowly crawls under your skin and emotionally smacks you in the back of the head. Shaloub is excellent in his smatterings of stage time." Full Review
"Often, productions of 'Happy Days' run out of steam as Beckett states and restates Winnie's predicament, but under Belgrader's direction, the longeurs are few and brief. Most of the time, one is caught up in Winnie's second-by-second focus on the smallest details of living...And, despite the role's weaknesses and oddities, Adams captures the essence of Winnie, bravely, madly anticipating an emotional fulfillment, the possibility of which, if it ever existed, is now long gone, never to return." Full Review
"'Happy Days' is a winning offering, though its excellence can sometimes seem effortful, from the pebbly detail of Takeshi Kata’s set to the unrelenting brightness of Tom Ontiveros’s lights to Adams’s practiced performance, in which she cycles through a considerable array of grins, grimaces, puckers and moues, her eyes rolling merrily in their sockets like twinned ping-pong balls...It’s clear from their ample enjoyment that both these actors love, honour and cherish the work." Full Review
"This is a straightforward, respectful mounting that follows most of Beckett’s requirements...While it’s important to convey the tedium of Winnie’s endless days in a world where the sun never sinks and sleep is incessantly interrupted by the raucous ringing of a bell, the audience itself shouldn’t feel the dullness; this, however, especially in act one, is what happens. Ms. Adam’s portrayal of this now iconic role, while far from a failure, misses being a triumph and falls into the category o... Full Review
"Andrei Belgrader has brought his production of Samuel Beckett’s 'Happy Days' to the Flea Theater, and there are laughs to be had. What’s missing is the darkness and dread that trigger Winnie’s natterings: the panic she’s trying so desperately to keep at bay...She gave glimmers of a deeper, more assured performance. But most of the time, there was no detectable impulse behind Winnie’s need to be heard by Willie, her audience of one, and to know he is still there...There was no poignancy." Full Review
"The existentialist play is essentially a rambling two-act monologue for Winnie, who goes through daily routines and searches through her handbag while Willie occasionally rises out of his hole to read the newspaper or reach for a gun...If you'd like to see a two-hour play with no plot and little movement that is built around a single visual metaphor, be my guest." Full Review
for a previous production "Like any durable masterpiece, 'Happy Days' can feel different over time as the viewer’s perspective on mortality morphs, and everyone owes themselves a renewed encounter with it every twenty years or so. The pride of this production, so attentively directed by Belgrader, resides in the way it revivifies the play’s everlasting relevance." Full Review
for a previous production "It’s a lovely one, faithful to Beckett from scenic designer Takeshi Kata’s bright blue trompe-l’oeil backdrop to the play’s ambiguous, here painfully balletic final image. Shalhoub is the funniest, most scabrous and physically effortful Willie I have ever seen, and Adams is an indomitable, comical, profoundly feminine Winnie." Full Review
for a previous production "Though the earth is pulling Winnie down into it, her quixotic defiance of gravity is buoyant in Adams' lucid, dignified and animated portrayal...This production's perfect blend of scorching pointlessness and humor approaches the slapstick of a Buster Keaton movie and also the pathos of tragedy, yet only flirts with either extreme." Full Review
for a previous production "'Happy Days' confronts us and embraces us and, if nothing else, shows us how managing day by day may bring 'great mercies'... Director Andrei Belgrader guides the show flawlessly. Highly recommended for an audience ready to be embraced by existential ideas and ready to see a perfect production of a difficult play." Full Review
for a previous production "It’s a straightforward, unflashy, and intimate performance that belies the usual tendency of Beckett renderings to feel pre-ordained. Director Belgrader, by laying back and indulging the silence, has allowed Adams to realize all the sympathy available from an audience. The show is not brisk. The life it describes is not brisk. But it is very much alive." Full Review
for a previous production "A strikingly fresh, definitive revival of Samuel Beckett’s 1961 existential tragicomedy...It is almost unbearably disturbing for its casual acceptance of wrongness, in a staging that is deeply and surprisingly resonant in today’s climate of political, environmental and social upheaval." Full Review
for a previous production "The director gets it just right. He allows the play to be stagnate, he allows the silences, and in doing so, he also creates a perfect environment for his actors to shine...Anyone can see 'Happy Days' and take something away from it totally unique. It is a work of art of the highest order, and this production rises to the challenges of such a work, and the result is magical." Full Review
for a previous production "The performances delivered by the two actors remind us of why theatre will not die. Nothing that is so captivating on this stage, in this dark room shared with others, as we watch these two survivalists soldier on, would work for the camera. The play needs the pulse of life, the precious breath of live actors." Full Review
for a previous production "There is much about social standards, marriage, and the elemental nature of womanhood, all to be gleaned as the evening matures...Director Andrei Belgrader balances the grim, unforgiving quality of set and situation with just enough humor to keep the darkness from descending too soon. " Full Review
for a previous production "Beckett’s prose can be daunting and enigmatic. His vision is unique in his examination of the human condition which requires participation of the viewer to discern its meaning, but the journey is rewarding. 'Happy Days' is non-linear. It is experiential and the experience this production provides is profound and powerful." Full Review
for a previous production "Winnie, like all of us, is being buried alive by time. But while she has her Willie semi-sentient by her side, it is another happy day. This richly inhabited production, suffused with the tender solace of human connection in the existential void, gives us a less ironic reason to rejoice." Full Review
for a previous production "Despite the script’s bleak metaphor of two lives caught in an existentialist void, the viewer cannot help but feel a kinship to Winnie and Willie, soldiering on as best they can, victims of an unfeeling fate that that they don’t understand and cannot change." Full Review
See it if You just can't get enough Beckett, or if love Dianne Wiest. A true embodiment of Beckett's mind, in a grim setting.
Don't see it if If you're depressed or grieving, it's not the place for you, or if you feel fidgety in a mostly quiet setting.
See it if IF U KNOW BECKETT IS GREAT AND EVERY PRODUCTION IS WORTH C-ING..WANT 2 C A NEW FABULOUS TAKE BY DIANE WEIST.. KNOW WHAT NOT 2 MISS.
Don't see it if U DON’T APPRECIATE BECKETT OR DIANE WEIST… LISTEN 2 NOT SO GOOD REVIEWS OF DIRECTOR WHO WAS FINE… DON’T FOLLOW MY ADVICE WHICH IS A MUST GO
See it if You love your Becket well done. You want to revel in a wonderful performance with Dianne Wiest buried waist deep then neck deep in sand.
Don't see it if If you don't care for Becket don't bother.
Also For theatergoers over 65 and married this play has a lot to say.
See it if , like me, you would see Dianne Weist in anything.
Don't see it if you don't like Becket (to be honest, most of his plays put me to sleep), though even then it is worth it just to see Dianne Weist.
See it if you like Beckett. Adams does well as winsome Winnie. The metaphor for life--as gradual burial--is elucidating.
Don't see it if you like realistic theater or pure comedies. This is unsettling and challenging. Some parts dragged a bit. Mostly, Adams was engaging.
See it if Saw this last spring at the Yale Rep. I found it extremely boring and hard to watch. The acting feat is impressive.
Don't see it if You want to see a regular play. This is basically a one woman show. Hard to describe. But not a fun night out at the theater. Strange.