Saturday, October 22, 2016

Review of The Happiest Place on Earth at Sidshow Theatre Company The Greenhouse Theater Center

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Happiest Place on Earth. It was written and performed by Philip Dawkins, and it was directed by Jonathan L. Green. It was about Philip Dawkins' family going to Disneyland. It is about the importance of family, how your entire life can be altered in one fell swoop, and how there is no such thing as being "happy." I thought this was a great show. I really really loved it. It was very moving and also funny at points. It gave the perfect amount of sadness: it didn't just throw it all in your face; it gave it to you in small doses.

This play is certainly not happy all the time. You would expect the trip to Disneyland to be a happy thing, but they take it because they don’t know what to do with Christmas because their dad has died suddenly. The story is about Philip’s mom Beth and her sisters Mary Lynn, Karen, and Nan (who is left behind for the trip) and Philip’s grandmother, Beth’s mom. And when they get to Disneyland, Beth sees Cinderella when she is lost and she starts saying all her problems to Cinderella. And it is very sad because she is just pouring her heart out to this costumed character. And Cinderella is just trying to calm her down so that everyone else in line can meet Cinderella. Cinderella did have a lot of sympathy for her, but she couldn’t really help her because none of these problems are things that can really be solved easily. And while that is going on, Karen is on an Alice in Wonderland ride and while she is on it all she can think about is the relationship with her mom. I thought it was really cool how they melded two different worlds together. They took lines from Alice in Wonderland and then turned them into lines that the mom had said. There aren’t a lot of lighting (designed by Ellie Rabinowitz) or sound (designed by Michael Huey) effects in the rest of the play, but here there is an entire lighting and sound sequence. It is really cool, but the effects also add a lot of depth to the scene because it immerses you in the ride even more. And it helps you to feel Karen’s pain even more.

There were also funny parts. I really enjoyed all of the various throwing up ordeals. My favorite was there was a lady standing in front of Beth and Karen in the bathroom line when Karen was feeling sick and she wouldn't let them go in front of her. And then Karen puked on the woman. I feel like she kind of deserved it since she wouldn't let the kids go past so Karen wouldn't get sick in front of everybody. Then Beth as a grown up, Philip's mom, says "And I don't know whatever happened to that lady." And Philip says that all we know about her is that Karen threw up on her and she's probably dead. I thought that was hilarious. It was so dark but in such a funny way. I do love some dark comedy. There was another funny story about reincarnation that was basically about how the sisters found a black cat and then Lynn and Karen wanted to keep the black cat, but they were worried that their sister would tell their mom. So they decided to say that the cat was a reincarnation of their dead father. Dark humor! Then they talked about if reincarnation was in the Bible and Karen is like "Yeah, of course it is in the Bible." Also, Philip tells us about how when Disneyland first opened up it had a gun store in it, which you kind of laugh nervously about that. It is not hilarious or anything, but it is so unbelievable and crazy that they would sell guns at an amusement park. Altogether even though the show was about sad families, it is not altogether an insanely sad play because of the dark humor.

There are also some very sweet moments that relieve the sadness. I thought it was really cool that Philip Dawkins’ grandma is still alive even though she is 90 now because the grandma seemed like a really good grandma and a hardworking person. One time Philip and his grandma were doing the dishes and they saw a black cat in the yard. And with the entire story leading up to that, like the black cat they had had before and they said was a reincarnation of their dad, it made for an adorable end to the story. Another sweet thing is when the grandma met the grandpa, they had gone dancing and she drops her underpants on the floor by accident and then he just picks them up and puts them in his pocket. I thought that was super sweet because he didn’t exclaim, which showed how much of a gentleman he was. It was also very funny.

People who would like this show are people who like black cats, dark humor, and asking Cinderella deep questions. I think people should definitely go see this show. It is beautiful and moving, and I would definitely see it again if I could. It only runs until October 30th, so go and get your tickets!

Photos: Jonathan L. Green

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