Human spirit graces Magic Theatre's ‘Happy Ones’

Courtesy PhotoLiam Craig

Courtesy PhotoLiam Craig

Sometimes nothing much happens in a play, or at least nothing surprising, but the journey its characters take feels so authentic, so palpably representative of the human condition, that audiences are likely to cherish the passing minutes.

Such is the case in Magic Theatre’s Bay Area premiere of Los Angeles playwright Julie Marie Myatt’s 2009 play “The Happy Ones.”

Early in the two-act drama an unspeakable tragedy occurs, and just like that the sunny world of amiable, middle-aged Walter, owner of a small appliance store in Orange County, is forever altered. It is 1975, and the Vietnam War has just ended.

Walter spends the rest of the play slowly and reluctantly learning how to readjust.

His best friend, an amusingly incompetent Unitarian minister, tries to help. So does the minister’s ditsy girlfriend. Both are eager, but both just instinctively do all the wrong things.

There is no right thing, however. Walter cannot be jollied out of his misery. There’s only one person who understands that: a quiet, suicidal Vietnamese refugee who has experienced horrors of his own.

The play begins with a flurry of too many busy set changes, and initially Liam Craig as Walter appears oddly fidgety and unfocused.

But when the story and stage business settle down and become streamlined, so does Craig, effectively inhabiting the life of a man facing an unimaginable future.

Director Jonathan Moscone nudges the comic elements to just the right level to balance, and offset, Walter’s remote and silent suffering — and Moscone and Craig know how to internalize that grief, never sentimentalizing it.

Gabriel Marin, as the bumbling minister, is hilarious: a terminally insecure man of God who doesn’t know what he believes, or how to help anyone, and goes through life with a permanently perplexed look on his face.

And Marcia Pizzo, as the sexy, alcoholic divorcee, crafts a character who is convincingly, and comically, shallow and insensitive yet compassionate — and also desperately needy.

Jomar Tagatac is also excellent as the Vietnamese refugee, a doctor in his homeland now working in a bakery. Tagatac’s polite, fixed smile, stiffly formal bearing and sad eyes are deeply affecting.

Myatt’s writing is light and delicate in her exploration of grief and of the mysterious power of human connections to offer a flicker of hope.

And the Magic production, on Erik Flatmo’s realistically bland suburban-living-room set, is tonally just right.

 

The Happy Ones: Presented by Magic Theatre

  • Where: Building D, Fort Mason, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street, S.F.
  • When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays; closes April 21
  • Tickets: $22-$62
  • Contact: (415) 441-8822, www.magictheatre.org

artsentertainmentJonathan MosconeMagic Theatre

Just Posted

The Hotel Whitcomb on Market Street was one of many hotels that took in homeless people as part of The City’s shelter-in-place hotel program during the pandemic.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Closing hotels could disconnect hundreds from critical health care services

‘That baseline of humanity and dignity goes a long way’

Pachama, a Bay Area startup, is using technology to study forests and harness the carbon-consuming power of trees. (Courtesy Agustina Perretta/Pachama)
Golden Gate Park visitors may take a survey about options regarding private car access on John F. Kennedy Drive, which has been the subject of controversy during the pandemic.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Your chance to weigh in: Should JFK remain closed to cars?

Host of mobility improvements for Golden Gate Park proposed

San Francisco supervisors are considering plans to replace trash cans — a “Renaissance” garbage can is pictured on Market Street — with pricey, unnecessary upgrades. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
San Francisco must end ridiculous and expensive quest for ‘pretty’ trash cans

SF’s unique and pricey garbage bins a dream of disgraced former Public Works director

Dreamforce returned to San Francisco in person this week – but with a tiny sliver of past attendance. (Courtesy Salesforce)
Dreamforce returns with hundreds on hand, down from 170,000 in the past

High hopes for a larger Salesforce conference shriveled during the summer

Most Read