Instead of watching the Democrats debate (not that I would anyway), we went to performance of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, starring Dianne Wiest. It’s essentially a one-woman show. There is one other cast member but he has a very minor role. I had previously read Beckett’s more famous Waiting for Godot and found it tedious and pointless. Since hope springs eternal, I’d hoped that a performance could breathe life into Beckett. Alas, it was not to be.
The play is in two acts. It opens with Winnie, a woman in her fifties, buried up to her waist in the sand on a beach. She’s awakened by a loud bell and proceeds to narrate her daily routine, punctuating it with declarations of how happy she is, as a stream of consciousness. Her husband, the sixtyish Willie, is hardly seen and rarely speaks. The plot, such as it is, is laid out in greater detail in this article.
This work is a Rorschach test, as is much of modern art. Each audience member can project his own interpretation on the work: the anomie of modern existence, the oppressiveness of the patriarchy, the pointlessness of life. The trouble is that this kind of art adds little value; the ideas come from the audience, not the artist. I’ve been exposed enough of this in music, drama, and the plastic and visual arts to be left with a deep sense of dissatisfaction by it. Tom Wolf took this up this in The Painted Word over forty years ago. More recently, Roger Scruton extended the analysis to all forms of art.
Happy Days is supposed to have some laughs, and the audience dutifully laughed here and there at jokes that weren’t funny, or weren’t even jokes. The only thing that approached humor was something Ratburghers could appreciate. Winnie sees an ant lugging around a round, white object. She asks Willie about it and he yells “It’s an egg. Formication!” Nobody else laughed.
tl;dr: Beckett’s plays suck and I would have probably found the Democratic candidate debates more entertaining.