Photo Credit: The Hub Theatre Company
Amadeus Jones ’21 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
What happens when a show defies its own expectations? What happens when a show starts off as a simple premise about a crumbling friendship between three friends, then suddenly escalates to situations involving BDSM, gunshot wounds, blackmail, and lots of drinking? Both of those questions are answered during Robyn is Happy, presented by The Hub Theatre Company of Boston at the First Church in Boston.
It’s time to take a trip down the rabbit hole that is the mind of Michael Elyanow, playwright of this contemporary and peculiar piece, as well as numerous other shows. Mr. Elyanow wrote Robyn is Happy several years ago, and it premiered at the B Street Theatre in Sacramento, California soon after. The original production featured actresses Amy Kelly, Elizabeth Nunziato, and Melinda Parrett. Now it has finally made its way across the U.S. to the east coast.
The description at the beginning probably left you with more questions than answers. To give you the gist of things, the show revolves around the various interactions between three friends. Robyn, played by Amie Lytle, is a woman searching for a relationship that brings her actual happiness. When her overprotective and sometimes controlling friend Hannah, played by Christine Dickinson, finds out about her latest relationship, a heated argument between the two ensues that continues through most of the show. Unfortunately caught in the middle of this feud, is Trudy, played by Lauren Elias. This show, especially during its second act, begins to spiral downward into a series of unfortunate or odd events including the blackmailing of both Robyn and Trudy by Hannah, BDSM involving Trudy’s relationship with another man, and even the hand of one of the characters being cut off. Oh yes, it get very dark, very fast. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t any light hearted moments. In fact, the first act of the show can definitely be classified as a straight comedy.
Photo Credit: The Hub Theatre Company
Unfortunately, during the showing of Robyn is Happy that Emertainment Monthly attended, the actress playing Hannah had recently lost her voice resulting in a male member of the show’s crew having to read her lines as a voice-over while she acted out the parts physically. This lack of vocals made something more and more apparent as the show went on. It is the fact that the first act of the show, where comedy was the primary focus, was physically awkward. Comedy, in any stage production or movie, needs to have both good physicality and vocal timing. The vocal aspect was there, in fact it was made maybe even more funny by the fact that a man was doing the voiceover for a female character, but most of the physical actions were either too small and missed an opportunity, or were comprised of the characters simply moving from point A to point B.
Then the second act of the show came, and suddenly night became day. This metaphor perfectly captures the shift in balance from a comedic focus in first act, to a dramatic focus in the second act. It is clear that Director Kelly Smith, fresh off from being a finalist for the “Best Drama” award at the New Hampshire Theater Awards for her play Raining Aluminum, made sure each dramatic reveal or conversation, no matter how ridiculous or bizarre, was delivered with weight and tension. In fact, the comedy really stepped up its game in the second act, seeing as how it was now being used as relief. The atmosphere generated by these three actresses, as well as the guidance given by the director, goes to provide the right tone at the right time in the majority of scenes during this second act.
The set pieces put together by Set Designer Darren Cornell were all right, usually consisting of different houses or apartments, but never really stood out. The costumes created by Costume Designer Heather Oshinsky was equally satisfactory, usually consisting of clothing you would see most city-goers wearing. But once again, none of it really stood out. The lighting by designer Chris Bocchiaro were, like the other accessories on stage, did its job but was not anything spectacular.
The attention is meant to be kept on the interactions between three entertaining yet intense characters played by three equally entertaining yet intense actresses. While these actresses might want to work on their physical presence on stage, most of time Robyn is Happy is a decently enjoyable show filled with twists and turns, keeping the audience interested and entertained.