The main reason for going out to see a play is getting yourself away from TV land, from Facebook, from yourself, and from the diseases of the postmodern age that haunt you and debilitate your humanity (think Internet-infused meltdown by way of believing that the world you encounter online is real). That's why I went and saw the play Slaphappy recently. Written by Gary Slezak and directed by Richard Shavzin, the show is mounted at the Theatre Building Chicago until March 15. Although the three-act play contains none of movingly cathartic or deeply thoughtful elements I gravitate towards I enjoyed its whimsical element. And like every former (or current) American expat in Europe or frequent traveler to Paris I got a kick out of poking fun at the pate-obsessed French.
The story wraps itself around two middle-aged American expatriates in Paris coming to terms with lost love, divorce, binge drinking and overdoses on pessimistic nihilism and depression. The fact that the play confronts these heavy issues through the lens of light comic farce deserves merits.
Here's what I liked:
- The set. It's a pretty picture of a Paris hotel, with the token French windows leading out to a balcony view of the Eiffel Tower. All of my visits to Paris were spent at crappy hotels, which while cheap and dingy, afforded some kind of awesome view, either a tiny window balcony, or picturesque view of street scene.
- I like how the play through its characters appeals to all ages. Older folks can relate to the middle-aged divorcees -- the boozy and beautiful Lauren (Judy Blue) and her anguished, intellectual ex-husband Stanek (Mitchell Joseph). For younger viewers, the strapping young Philippe, the French bellboy played by Lucas Neff is easy on the eyes and does a smashing good accent and convincing character portrayal. Barely dressed French Cherie (Annie DiMaria) appeals to men of all ages and women who secretly fantasize of running around a French hotel in various revealing negligees throwing themselves at men.
- The interwoven story about saving the ducks from the evil French who don't care enough about the cruelty involved in fattening the livers of male ducks and geese for their beloved foie gras. I don't care what anybody says -- I agree with Philippe. Let's save the ducks!
- I loved the character of Philippe, who asks everyone "How can I make you happy?" then does his utmost to live up to this life mission.
- The point that tortured artists like to be tortured and in fact derive a kind of bizarre happiness from it.
What I didn't like:
- It's a busy play, with the characters all over the stage. And I'm not a big fan of romantic comedies, unless there's some black comedy or intellectual pondering involved. Yet I took heart in the play's message. "Better than being careful is to be pure in art!"