The Happy Ones
by Julie Marie Myatt
directed by Martin Benson
originally produced at South Coast Repertory ,
Costa Mesa, CA.
through October 18, 2009
The Happy Ones tells the story of Walter Wells, a proud family man and small business owner living the good life in Orange County in 1975. One beautiful California day his contentment disintegrates when his wife and two children are killed in an automobile accident. The blow is so swift and brutal that he has no desire to try to put the pieces of his life back together again – and his friends, Pastor Gary and Mary Ellen, don’t know how to help him. But then an unexpected and uneasy relationship develops between Walter and Bao Ngo, the man who drove the car that killed Walter’s family. Bao has carried his own tragedy with him from his homeland in Vietnam to his new home in Little Saigon and, because both their lives are now circumscribed by loss and grief, Walter finds he may have more in common with this stranger than he does with his friends.
SCR commissioned Julie Marie Myatt to write The Happy Ones after producing the world premiere of her play, My Wandering Boy, in 2007. In conceiving the play, Myatt was struck by the extraordinary cross-cultural dynamic that evolved when Orange County, a middle-American suburban enclave, became home to the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam after the fall of Saigon. A public reading of The Happy Ones in SCR’s NewSCRipts series in March 2009 revealed a surprising wealth of humor in the play, despite its difficult subject matter. The play clearly provided an emotionally satisfying experience to the audience, which responded enthusiastically. Despite its specificity to SCR’s Orange County community, the play’s central concerns are universal to the human condition (grief knows no cultural boundaries) and particular to the American dream – where the pursuit of happiness is taken as a God-given right and serves as a beacon to immigrants from every corner of the world. In The Happy Ones Myatt has drawn a moving portrait of shared grief, has lightened it with a strain of humor that is both surprising and completely true to the play’s characters, and has found a gratifying sense of uplift at her story’s conclusion. We expect her beautiful play to appeal to other producers as profoundly as it does to us.
Set Design:Ralph Funicello
Lighting Design:Tom Ruzika
Sound Design:Paul James Prendergast
Costume Design:Angela Balogh Calin
strong>Stage manager: Jennifer Ellen Butler
Associate Director: Oanh Nguyen
Mary Beth Adderley, Honorary Producer