Even More Boring Than the Debates

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.

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Author: drlorentz

photon whisperer & quantum mechanic

5 thoughts on “Even More Boring Than the Debates”

  1. I have a feeling that candidate Marianne Williamson – had never heard of her before last night’s debate, she’s an author apparently – would have been thrilled to explain  Happy Days to you. As some funny tweets noted, her comments during the debate made a lot more sense if you pictured her waving a glass of pinot noir in one hand while she enlightened us all.

    In my opinion absurdist theater like Beckett’s is absurd in that anyone thinks it is theater.

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  2. Did she wear socks?

    Doc, are you going to fail to see a pattern and go to another play by Beckett?

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  3. 10 Cents:
    Did she wear socks?

    I’m going to bet she wore socks but we never saw her below the waist so it’s impossible to verify. Ms. Wiest even took her bows while buried in the sand mound.

    10 Cents:
    Doc, are you going to fail to see a pattern and go to another play by Beckett?

    No, I finally learned my lesson. However, the evening was not a total loss. We enjoyed a fine dinner before the performance. Also, the set designer did a great job. The acting was good. Too bad the script was awful. It’s odd that the critics praised the “flawless comedic timing” and notes that the theater “often echoed with laughter.” The play is not (intentionally) funny with the one exception I noted in the OP. And nobody got that joke because nobody knows what formication means, Ratburghers excepted of course.

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  4. drlorentz:
    I had previously read Beckett’s more famous Waiting for Godot and found it tedious and pointless.

    This made me laugh. I was forced to read this play in middle school (AP English) and we found it not only tedious, but ridiculous.

    But it appears all was not lost at your event; Dianne Wiest is a pleasure to watch. I loved her performance in Hannah and Her Sisters.

    The only other “iconic lit” I was forced to read in those days was The Catcher in the Rye.

    Yawn.

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  5. EThompson:

    drlorentz:
    I had previously read Beckett’s more famous Waiting for Godot and found it tedious and pointless.

    This made me laugh. I was forced to read this play in middle school (AP English) and we found it not only tedious, but ridiculous.

    But it appears all was not lost at your event; Dianne Wiest is a pleasure to watch. I loved her performance in Hannah and Her Sisters.

    The only other “iconic lit” I was forced to read in those days was The Catcher in the Rye.

    Yawn.

    I’m with you on Catcher in the Rye, though I only read it as an adult, long after school was out. The work is jejune. I can see why they make kids read it, though, since that’s the audience least likely to complain about it. Kudos to you for seeing through it even then.

    Also agree that Wiest is a good actress. She did well with the material she had. I would have preferred to see her in something that highlighted her talents rather than this drivel.

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