For the vast majority of us, purportedly 92% of the population, we seek love. Love in the form of a partner to go through life with. A person to hold hands with. Someone to gaze limpidly into our love-struck eyes, to tell us we’re loved.
No matter whether it’s men with women, women with women, or men with men, in almost all cases it’s a twosome we seek. Everybody needs to be two.
At least that’s what conniving cupid Bridget Castonguay tells us in GCTC’s season-opener, the English-language debut of You Are Happy.
Single people, on the other hand, they scare us. According to Bridget, they’ve probably had abortions, genital warts, cancer, they smoke and definitely drink too much.
Good thing they make up only 8% of the population.
Coming from one-half of a couple wed for 26 years, accompanied by another couple wed at least as long and part of a packed house of what looked to be couples and more couples, playwright Rébecca Déraspe surely is on to something.
There’s truth to her contention that Love “thinks it can get away with anything” and yet “takes itself so seriously.”
So yes, this rather dark romantic comedy is full of truisms. It also has guiles galore.
Directed by Ottawa’s Adrienne Wong, the play examines the social pressures single people face in their quest for love and happiness. Bridget (played with boisterous exuberance by Mélanie Beauchamp, back for another run after last season’s excellent Les Passants) is hell-bent on helping her brother Jeremy (managed ably by David Brown, a GCTC newcomer) find the kind of happiness that will get him out of her house. While at grocery and drug stores, Bridget hunts for and hones in on her target: a would-be wife for Jeremy in Chloe (smartly deadpanned by Katie Bunting, also making her GCTC debut).
While not quite theatre of the absurd in the true sense of the French movement centred in 1950s Paris, You Are Happy borrows discernible elements from it. Characters who seem out of harmony with their own existence (twice-suicidal Jeremy suddenly bouncing out of the doldrums to move in with Chloe). A soupçon of existentialism à la Jean-Paul Sartre in the background that sees humans as having little choice in life but to create their own moral code (Bridget stooping to ludicrous lengths to trick unsuspecting Chloe into mating Jeremy). An anti-realistic plot and structure that goes against accepted norms of conventional theatre (characters telling you where they are, as in, “Here I am, sitting in my sister’s closet” or “Here I am, eavesdropping outside their window”).
For all of its farcically illogical approach to finding love, the matchmaking works in You Are Happy and we too, are happy.
What didn’t always work as well was the set by John Doucet. As blinds that roll up and blinds that cast shadows, the swivelling cube was effective. But what was the point of making actors push an empty rectangle? Absurdist choreography?
This is a play for our times. Love not only thinks it can get away with anything but in You Are Happy, it actually does.
At GCTC September 21 to October 8, 2017
Tickets: 613-236-5196 and www.gctc.ca
Allyson Domanski writes about travel, the arts and reviews theatre for Ottawa Tonite as well as for Newswest. She is currently completing a major work of creative non-fiction to be published in 2017. An avid traveller and not-quite year-round cyclist, she and her husband spent two and a half years bicycling around the world before she joined the territorial then the federal public service. The hockey and lacrosse mom, owner of a Husky and une cabane au Quebec hails from Winnipeg and has lived from India to Iqaluit but she and her family call Hintonburg home.