I always like going to the Flea Theater, since they bring to fruition off beat, experimental and genius pieces such as Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, directed by Andrei Belgrader and playing now to packed audiences with Brooke Adams and Tony Shalhoub. An oddly timeless work written in 1960; to the naked eye it seems like it is an aged piece of cheese, but only if you have never read a book or are part of the generation that needs everything spelled out and explained in 60 seconds, as patience is short these days and Becket requires mature thinking, tempered with intellectual curiosity. It requires a willingness to see that whether the rituals in life move fast or slow, we all most likely, find ourselves in a routine for better or worse. And though the main character Winnie, is a throwback to Jean Stapleton (Edith Bunker) days of yore, is she really that far away in her symbolic matrix from contemporary life?
Even if society has changed drastically in 55 years, we are human and do get older and we do begin to bury ourselves in sand, piling up the emblematic experience of a lifetime around us, until we are gone and buried. The metaphor is still as fresh as ever, though the conditions have changed and even then, if one searches their mind they will have an “Aha” moment of truth, recognizing familiar faces in their lives, even if it’s at the next table while dining at the Starbucks.
Winnie is a woman somewhere in her 50s, trying very hard to stay sane, alive and happy, as she is buried in earth so packed, she cannot or will not move, while her husband Willie moves in and out of day-light from his hole somewhere below the mound, where she presides. She will often call out to him, asking for his love and to affirm her life. He is wordless and with his head turned mostly away from the audience and Winnie, he spends most of his time reading an old paper, looking at porn, and grunting out a few things here and there of little consequence.
Ms. Adams makes a compelling Winnie, with a look of an aged beauty who might have been in a pageant in her youth. She refuses to be unhappy, even though you know by the strain of her smile that she is staving off the inevitability of death and is quite lonely to the very bottom of her soul.
The monumental task of carrying a full two hours of monologue is herculean, but Ms. Adams did it in a smooth and meticulous way; capturing Winnie’s dilemma of impending death, loneliness, and the steady nothingness that her relationship with her husband, who seems to be disappearing at will and with him her romantic memories. Ms. Adams has a distinctive quality of being uncommonness, which sometimes gets in the way of Winnie’s ordinary life history. We cannot help but notice her sparkle, she is not a warn piece of jewelry that has been dulled by time or become eccentric from a ritualized life forced into a mound of earth, maybe Ms. Adams is too charming. That hint of frustration, of utter eccentricity brought about by monotony fails to shine through, which seems to me missing from the steadiness of her performance.
Scarcely existent Willie, Mr. Shalhoub used his brief words wisely and was no less charming than he is in everything he does. However, I have to say, to be Willie successfully, one must be slightly more than catatonic and slightly less than dead. His final moment with his wife requires something deeper than the surprise vertical entrance of Willie wearing fancy attire. It requires mercy, love and something as unseemly as maybe a little hatred.
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Arts – The Huffington Post
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