Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Happiness Song Plays Last—Profile Theatre—SW Portland

Dots Connected

This drama is written by Quiara Alegría Hudes and directed by Josh Hecht (Profile’s Artistic Director).  It is playing at the Artists Rep. space, SW Alder St. & 16th Ave., through November 19th.  For more information, go to their site at www.profiletheatre.org or call 503-242-0080.

In this, the final dot in connecting the dots in the Elliot trilogy, life has come full circle for him.  These plays, like life, are about birth & death, despair & joy, hate & love and finding one’s place in the world.  It also is about discovering and celebrating your roots and respecting your heritage.  It is not about building walls between cultures (as some in this country seem hell-bent to do) but constructing bridges, so that we can all live out our dreams in peace.  But we are, indeed, a strange species, for happiness always seems just out of reach.  It’s time we realized that happiness is not “out there” somewhere but deep inside us.  We may be our own worst enemies, at times, but we can also be our own best friends, as well.

Elliot (Anthony Lam) is now in show biz and has garnered a role in a docudrama about Marines fighting in the Middle East, a subject Elliot knows all too well, having been there himself and killed a man, which still haunts him.  His new best friend on location is Ali (Wasim No’Mani), a native of this area and a consultant on the film.  He also has met Shar (Dre Slaman), an actress in the film, and they seem to have taken a liking to each other.  Meanwhile while real war rages all about them, especially the Egyptian protests.
Also, back at the ole homestead in Philly, his cousin, Yaz (Crystal Ann Muñoz), has found her activist roots and a new hero in a protest singer and neighbor, Agustin (Jimmy Garcia). 

Together they will not only awaken civil protest in each other but also something more basic.  She has also befriended a simple soul from the street, Lefty (Duffy Epstein), who helps with odd chores around the property.  All their stories will merge, as we dig deeper into their Pasts, and the outcome may not be living “happily” ever after but, at least, “hopefully,” ever after.

Once again, Hecht and Hudes have done an amazing job of navigating the troubled waters of a journey through these peoples’ lives and, at the same time, shown the relevance to our own situations.  Lam soldiers proudly on in a very naturalist performance.  Muñoz delves deeper into the psyche of her character and her talent shows, as she pulls out all the little nuances of Yaz’s make-up.  Garcia portrays convincingly a protest entertainer who literally puts his life into his work.  Slaman shows the power of a woman in a war-torn country.  No’mani is great, portraying the many conflicting emotions that such a countryman would be going through.  And Epstein is a marvel, letting us view a troubled soul, not with abhorrence, but with sympathy, as he struggles to find his dream, too.

I recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you