Happiness™ (May Can Theatre) 2016 Toronto Fringe Review

happinesstonyadamscorythibertThis evening I had the opportunity to watch Happiness™ by May Can Theatre, playing at Theatre Passe Muraille in the 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival .

Peter and James are two charming salesmen out to sell YOU happiness. The show begins with bright lights, loud music, and two cheerful young men running in and out of the audience in an attempt to pump us up. They explain how they have the secret to happiness, while doing an impressive dance routine.

But happiness isn’t as simple as they make it out to be.

Soon we’re taken back to their rehearsal period before the seminar actually begins. We learn more about Peter and James, as both emotionally unravel moments before the show.

What drew me in instantly was how electrifying the two actors are as their characters. Both are charming and the chemistry they have as partners strengthens the show. In this two-hander they were very connected to each other. The actors were invested in working as a team, which ended up creating a fabulous performance.

The show is heavy with dialogue, but even so, the actors are still able to keep the audience engaged through action in the play. Movement is still incorporated in the show while they talk to one another. It might sound like it would be a distraction, but it helps move the play forward. During the beginning of the show both Peter and James go around in circles fidgeting with a display case of their products in an attempt to centre it for the stage. The audience is able to laugh at their asinine attempt, but also find out that both these characters are very particular people. They also go through a series of pre-show warm-up exercises, which helps us understand more about their relationship. Both are very critical people, but still want the best for one another.

This leads me into their relationship. While watching the show it was clear that they both cared about each other, but would still lash out at one another – which was confusing. Their bond reminded me of how two brothers might act. It became clear that their animosity wasn’t toward one another, but to themselves. Peter and James have used their goal to sell other people happiness as a way to mask their own faults. Ie: James’ failed marriage and Peter’s failure as a caretaker to his nephew.

It made the final moments of the show all the more powerful, a moment that had the whole audience wincing in their seats. I love when theatre makes me squirm. I just found it unfortunate that it ended a few moments after the squirm-inducing moment. If the play had ended right before that point, I think the ending would have felt more gut-wrenching. I find that, usually, the moment after is never has powerful as the lead up.

That being said, it was still a great show to watch. Happiness™ is dark, funny, and moving. If you’re okay with a show that’s not all rainbows and sunshine, I wouldn’t miss out on it.

Details

  • Happiness™ plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace. (16 Ryerson Ave)
  • Tickets are $10 at the door, $12 in advance. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
  • Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s Alley, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
  • Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
  • Content Warning: Mature Language.
  • This venue is wheelchair-accessible.

Performances

  • Friday July 1st, 08:00 pm
  • Saturday July 2nd, 11:30 pm
  • Sunday July 3rd, 05:45 pm
  • Tuesday July 5th, 06:15 pm
  • Wednesday July 6th, 02:15 pm
  • Friday July 8th, 05:45 pm
  • Saturday July 9th, 01:45 pm

Photo of Tony Adams and Cory Thibert by Isaac Vallentin