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Dramashop captures humor and energy of Escape

ESCAPE FROM HAPPINESS

MIT Dramashop

Written by George F. Walker.

Directed by Janet Sonenberg.

Starring Marivi B. Acuna '96, Tara Perry '96, Jennifer L. Tsuei '96, and Linda Tsang '96.

Feb. 810, this Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m.

Kresge Little Theatre.

By Teresa Huang

The MIT Dramashop's production of George F. Walker's Escape from Happiness is an excellent display of strong characters and relationships. The players in this contemporary comedy endure fist fights, throw things at each other, and yell at the tops of their lungs - all in their pursuit of (or is it escape from?) happiness. This energetic show is reinforced by a creative use of stage lighting as well as realistic scenery.

When the play opens, we see that Junior (Diego Penta A. '96) has just been mysteriously beaten in his kitchen. He is found by his adoring wife Gail (Tara Perry '96) and her amusingly calm mother Nora (Marivi B. Acuna '96). Her other two daughters Elizabeth (Linda Tsang '96) and Mary Ann (Jennifer L. Tsuei '96) are each hysterically contrasting characters. Elizabeth is a "very busy woman" who feels the need to do something for her family by torturing those she thinks threaten their family unit. Mary Ann is a fantastically distressed young woman who is convinced she is at a crossroad in her life. The mother and her three daughters tolerate the presence of their sick father Tom (Bruce Applegate '96) who was once an abusive parent.

Nora's "light as a feather" outlook on life is very well played and acted. From the opening scene, the audience believes at first that Nora is slightly off her rocker. But ironically, in the end it seems she's the only sane character in the entire show other than Gail, whose dedication to all members of her family makes her an admirable figure.

The interaction between the three sisters is great, and their conflicts are sharp and well done. There is an obvious hostility between them which seems sad at times and hysterical at others. Tsuei plays the confused youngest daughter Mary Ann with particular humor, especially in the potato-peeling scene. It is evident that the intricacies in her character are all acknowledged and accentuated. And the "can I ask you a question" dilemma was very authentic.

Tsang shines as the angry Elizabeth, whose rantings seemed a bit overdone at first, but were not completely unbelievable as we came to understand her character. Easily the most complex character in the show, Tsang screams at her family members in one scene and hugs them in the next, achieving both sympathy and laughs from the audience.

The male characters in the show were also excellent. Penta as Gail's ex-car thief husband was an effective mix of ridiculous emotion and foolishness. The father-son crime team Rolly and Stevie, played by Edward D. Kohler G and Ryan J. Kershner '98, are equally entertaining as the foolish crooks who mess with the wrong family.

Another highlight of the show is the realistic scenery and use of lighting. The detailed kitchen scenery could very well have been transported directly from a real house, complete with running water and a junk drawer. The actors feel at home with the set and make effective use of it, covering the entire stage floor in their scenes. The creative use of lighting is also impressively thorough, with several lamps and lights all over the scenery, including a light in the refrigerator. The change from daylight to evening light is incredibly subtle and flawless.

Escape from Happiness is packed with humor and energy that never lets down for a moment. If anything, it escalates exponentially as the show continues. With strong characterizations and poignant relationships, this show is an excellent display of emotion and conflict. If you've never seen a Dramashop production before, make this your first.