Ends May 28

Happy Days (TFANA)

Members say: Great acting, Slow, Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Profound
22 reviews
45 reviews

Academy Award winner Dianne Wiest ('Hannah and Her Sisters,' 'Bullets Over Broadway') stars in Samuel Beckett‘s absurdist comic classic about a woman buried up to her waist and sinking into the earth.

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Wiest plays Winnie, a spirit of buoyant resourcefulness and unassuming grace in the face of inevitable oblivion. By turns comedic and heartbreaking, compassionate and ferocious, this production of 'Happy Days' originated at Yale Repertory Theatre and is directed by James Bundy.

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Reviews (67)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

Time Out New York

"The affecting revival at TFANA welcomes such sadness: In Wiest’s beautifully limpid performance, moments of bitter self-awareness pass like clouds over Winnie’s determined sunniness, enriching the play’s absurdism with plangent notes of deep feeling (including real hurt at Willie’s inattention). This 'Happy Days' fills you with a desire to comfort its heroine, but also with the knowledge that such comfort could only be cold." Full Review


"Dianne Wiest is now re-creating her marvelous performance, full of humor and pathos...Director James Bundy lets Beckett's frequent stage pauses play themselves out, sometimes for a tad too long. Still, Wiest's humorous and poignant Winnie is one for the ages...It's the somber tone of this production that distinguishes it...Despite their infrequent interaction, Wiest and Conroy succeed in creating endearing chemistry onstage in marvelous moments of theater magic." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"I've seen all sorts of actresses take on the role of Winnie, but none have made the character quite as purposeful as Dianne Wiest...The deft, utterly natural way that Wiest handles these bits of business are, I submit, the key to this production...It's fascinating to see how Bundy and his star deliver a characterization that feels both classically Beckett and yet its own distinct creation." Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

"Samuel Beckett’s bleak, comic and compassionate play...Wiest handles the comic moments deftly, but there seems real feeling when her Winnie momentarily drops her deliberate optimism...There is no question that Wiest delivers an impressive performance...Two hours of even a hauntingly humdrum existence is at least a half hour too long. Nevertheless, 'Happy Days' is the Winnie show, and Wiest makes the most of it." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

“It does seem…that Act One's pacing, with so many long pauses, is a bit draggy and that Wiest…seems more concerned with her moment by moment thoughts than any ultimate objective...However, Wiest, faithfully carrying out Beckett's detailed business, perfectly matches her own winsomeness to Winnie's struggle to maintain an upbeat attitude in the face of the inevitable. Lovers of Beckett and Wiest will have little to complain about.” Full Review

The Huffington Post

“Effortlessly funny and sad and moving….Somehow all of life’s mystery and horror are contained in what she says though damned if you can put a finger on how Beckett does it…Wiest is a treat, navigating the text with ease, taking you on the almost invisible journey this person is on...What the heck does it all mean? I do know coming out of the theater you don’t really care when it has cast its spell…It’s meaningful and meaningless; pure theater and perhaps anti-theater. In the old style.” Full Review

The Huffington Post

"Wiest comes out with flying colors...Much of the enormous challenge a performer faces is Winnie’s undeterred rambling. Holding interest has to be difficult, but it turns out to be a piece of cake for Wiest...I’ll go so far as to say that Wiest’s act two is the best interpretation of the heartily harrowing role I’ve ever witnessed. Wiest conveys the ravages of time superbly as well as disturbingly—in a play about nothing if not Beckett’s insistence that time gets us all in the lonely end." Full Review

The New York Times

"Life is terrible and yet, as played with ineffable gentleness by Wiest, whose alto flute of a voice has never seemed so gay and vulnerable, Winnie is no whiner...She finds laughs not only in the words but also in the gaps between...Great performances don’t on their own make definitive revivals. It’s not that there is anything notably wrong with Bundy’s dutiful staging...To the extent the production supports and frames Wiest so she can excel, it need not be better than it is. But it could be." Full Review


"All I can say is, move over Ruth White. Although you haven't been displaced in my heart and mind, the TFANA's Winnie, Dianne Wiest, reigns supreme. Her vivid, varied and touching performance in this endurance test of a play is so rich and ripe with detail that I pity any other actress I see in the part." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Even buried up to her neck in dirt, Dianne Wiest can act circles around most other thespians...'Happy Days' is a challenge in that it doesn’t weather the test of time as well as Beckett’s better known works...It’s allegorical, to be sure, but, oddly enough, lacks roots...No matter, for this is a Wiest workshop, or showcase if you will (craftily helmed by director James Bundy) and that’s more than enough. It’s an absolute treat to watch her work through Winnie’s difficulties." Full Review


"Under the assured direction of James Bundy, Wiest lends a determinedly naturalistic interpretation to Beckett's lines...She finds immense poignancy and much that's poetic beneath the surface banality of the text. But 'Happy Days' is anti-naturalistic; and, in this instance, the straightforward, unadorned quality of Wiest's performance leaves money on the table...With so much in Wiest's performance that's remarkable, it may be ungrateful to concentrate on what's missing." Full Review

Stage Buzz

“Wiest is at the top of her game as Winnie, bringing the character fully to life in a tour-de-force performance. Despite the challenges of performing in an increasingly constrained position, she projects more than enough power and presence to pull it all off…Masterfully done, this production presents a powerful view of a woman in the middle of a very personal journey. Though where she's going and where she's been are matters left up to every member of the audience.” Full Review

Off Script with Dan Dwyer

"Blessed we are to have Winnie played by a superb Dianne Wiest...There are too few visits to the theater that reduce the everyday so truthfully in the head, and so emotionally in the gut, too...Wiest draws you in closer and closer, to her face, to her eyes, in a totally captivating, mesmerizing performance...If I never see another production of 'Happy Days,' I’m blessed with this." Full Review


"Beckett never abandoned his affection for his characters, but he never condescended to them, either. The genius of Ms. Wiest is that just beneath her breathy, matronly chirrup lies surprising complexity." Full Review

Off Off Online

“Bundy’s splendid production has the superb Dianne Wiest as Winnie, an eternal optimist who fights constantly against the darkness…Wiest, with her quirky persona, is able to move between the comic and the serious aspects with consummate ease…Wiest does a terrific job of keeping one’s interest…The production achieves a delicate balance between intellectual allegory and popular entertainment, and it should not be missed.” Full Review

The Wall Street Journal

“Rigorously faithful to Beckett except perhaps for its scenery…This production’s realism made the situation’s grotesqueries all the more horrifying and the dramatic challenge all the greater…Ms. Wiest heroically carries the play on her shoulders and brow—sometimes breaking into fury, sometimes visibly working herself into happiness…Yet, in Ms. Wiest’s powerful performance, there are times we come to doubt those smiles…A vein of unease runs through Ms. Wiest’s portrayal.” Full Review

Edge New York

“A deep and at times gruesome look at the lives of women, stuck in one place and expected to make the very best of things…In lesser hands, this character could devolve into a harridan, but Wiest keeps Winnie sunny…Beckett is known for his love of the absurd, but in portraying the plight of this everywoman sinking deeper and deeper into the sands of time, he's hit the proverbial nail on the head.” Full Review

More Than The Play Blog

“Diane Wiest is captivating…She wins the audience over with perky optimism in the face of her character’s overwhelming dilemma...Her energy stays with us long after the curtain comes down, allowing us to ponder Beckett’s provocative writing and apply it to our own circumstances…Ms. Wiest creates moments that are full of poignancy and humor…She is truly spectacular…The play is a thoughtful encounter that leads to meaningful introspection.” Full Review

Front Row Center

"The entrancing, harrowing two-act play is widely considered one of Beckett’s best...As portrayed by Dianne Wiest, Winnie flaunts a breezy attitude for the entire first act, while uttering lines that tear at one’s heart...It's perhaps part of the genius of Beckett’s art to provide fodder for a seemingly inexhaustible array of arguments, propelling the thinker to dive ever more deeply into her thoughts." Full Review

Plays to See

"Yale Repertory Theater’s production of 'Happy Days' is both the epitome of existential comedy and tragedy pairing two genius talents – playwright Samuel Beckett and actress Dianne Wiest...Wiest is arguably one of the great American actresses of our time...Getting to see her in such a nuanced role is like watching a master class. The precision of her voice inflections and mannerisms is worthy of study...The beauty of it all is to decipher and see what it individually means to you." Full Review

The New York Times

for a previous production "At times the pacing might be tighter and Ms. Wiest tends to slip notes of piteousness into her delivery that border on the sentimental...But any actress undertaking this challenging role deserves a medal for valor, and Ms. Wiest’s entrancingly funny, ultimately harrowing performance certainly deserves one...As this fine production and Ms. Wiest’s fearless performance attest, call it what you will, 'Happy Days' remains one of the most unsettling and unforgettable plays in the modern canon." Full Review

New Haven Register

for a previous production Wiest is the most engaging Winnie available to local audiences in recent memory…Director James Bundy and his ace design team are whole-heartedly in tune with Beckett’s desire to create an environment that juxtaposes sunny optimism with suicidal despair…As for Bundy’s effort, it deserves high praise for ushering two superlative performances by Wiest and Conroy through daunting roles while leaving no trace of his own presence. His service is to the playwright alone.” Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Great writing, Challenging

See it if by all means if you have never seen Beckett, because Wiest's clear understanding of this difficult material clarifies what could be murky.

Don't see it if you only like lighter fare and don't want to be challenged.

Slow, Entertaining

See it if You want to see a unique existential play.

Don't see it if You are bored easily by slow action and no plot.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Entertaining

See it if you love Dianne Wiest and you want to spend time researching Beckett and what he's trying to say. Lots of food for thought.

Don't see it if You need no food for thought

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Great writing, Slow

See it if you like to compare versions of a classic texts or if you are a big fan of Diane Wiest

Don't see it if if you find Wiest's vocal mannerisms wearying or if you cannot abide Beckett.

Funny, Grim, Yes, both!

See it if You enjoy Beckett, even if you can only bear his cheeriest work, which this is. No, its not a laff riot, but you can smile.

Don't see it if You don't think it appropriate for a playwright to ask you to consider the value, the purpose, the meaning of your life here on the planet.

Thought-provoking, Quirky, Indulgent, Slow, Symbolic

See it if Woman stuck in the sand talks to herself and barely-responsive companion to pass the time. An extreme metaphor for the human condition.

Don't see it if The image was memorable but despite good acting, it dragged a bit and wasn't all that deep. We all focus on trivialities and smile to get by

Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Profound

See it if See if you enjoy and appreciate Samuel Beckett. An outstanding performance by Dianne Wiest. Relax as you experience a memorable play.

Don't see it if Do not see if you are unfamiliar with Beckett or expect a simple , uncomplicated play or musical.

See it for a terrific performance by dianne wiest.

See it if You can sit through Beckett.

Don't see it if You can't sit through Beckett.

Absorbing, Dizzying, Great acting, Intelligent, Profound

See it if You want a master class in acting from Diane Weist , she makes the apparent ramblings make perfect sense

Don't see it if You are averse to absurdist plays and find plays like Godot too much .

Dizzying, Disappointing, Excruciating, Slow

See it if My first Beckett and my last Beckett. All 30 points earned thanks to Dianne Wiest.

Don't see it if Oooof. Bad. Ooof. Can I get the hour of my life back?

Ambitious, Great acting, Quirky

See it if you like me love Diane Wiest - you know that Beckett is going to be an esoteric night at the theatre

Don't see it if you have to have a linear story line

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Must see, Great writing

See it if You love plays that question wHo we are and the end of life.

Don't see it if You are looking for a cheerful play!

Great acting, Masterful, Must see, Profound

See it if a once in a lifetime performance by Wiest in a one of the most challenging plays ever written. Superb production both chillling and profound

Don't see it if you don't enjoy Beckett.

Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Quirky, Great writing

See it if You love/like this play, or are curious about it. This is a solid, well acted production. Dianne Wiest is very worth seeing.

Don't see it if You like traditional plays with story and movement. This is a famous play, well performed, but it is not to everyone's taste.

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Slow

See it if you want to think or are a fan of Dianne Wiest or Beckett.

Don't see it if you are looking for a cleanly plotted story. This requires thought and is definitely not for those looking for clarity.

Epic, Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful, Slow

See it if you are a Beckett fan,; if you are interested in seeing a masterful production of an important play; if you want to see Diane Weist shine.

Don't see it if you don't have patience, or curiosity about theatrical styles, or if you are restless (physically).

Absorbing, Intelligent, Intense, Masterful, Resonant

See it if You want to see a classic done right by a true actress.

Don't see it if You don't like Beckett or absurdist theater.

Great acting, Resonant, Slow

See it if You like Samuel Beckett or you want to see a truly great performance from Dianne Wiest.

Don't see it if You get bored easily. Make no mistake - this is pure Beckett. It's Dianne Wiest onstage talking for two hours without moving.

Great acting, Masterful, Relevant, Great writing

See it if Youre a Beckett fan, like diane weist and enjoy a 2hour monologue about love death and the absurdity of life.filled with pathos,dark humor

Don't see it if You dont like beckett, are looking for plot driven, action play.

Funny, Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Slow

See it if You want to see Wiest carry an absurdist work and make it come to life.

Don't see it if You don't like absurdist theatre.

Clever, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Slow

See it if you aren't afraid of shows that make you work to meet them in the middle, rather than coming to you.

Don't see it if you don't like above-described shows, you prefer shows with a lot of visual action or clear development in plot.

Edgy, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Profound

See it if Dianne Wiest is brilliant and devastating in this role, which is famously one of the most challenging roles in theatre.

Don't see it if This play definitely is not for everyone. It is not conventional or even necessarily entertaining. Enter at your own risk.

Thought-provoking, Great writing, Disappointing, Slow, Soporific

See it if You are a fan of the play and don't mind this not being a great or definitive take on it. Or an open-minded Beckett noob with great patience

Don't see it if You aren't already a fan of the play, writer, or style in general. This production is not likely to convert skeptics or blow minds.

Also Diane Wiest's performance is the real reason to see this production. T... Read more Read less

Masterful, Quirky, Slow

See it if You love Beckett and Dianne Weist.

Don't see it if You don't need a driving action.

Also Some theater needs to take it's time to work on you. This one did and ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Resonant

See it if You want to see a masterclass in acting. Brilliant performance!

Don't see it if You are looking for simple entertainment.