“You Are Happy,” proclaims the opening play of the GCTC’s fall season, perhaps in confirmation, perhaps in defiance. The play, which opens September 21, is a journey into the world of modern love, with its Tinders, Grindrs, abundance of choice and disappointment. You Are Happy is an absurdist comedy that raises an uncomfortable question about how we as a society view romance: are we making ourselves unhappy?
“We are healthier, we live longer, we have more at our fingertips than ever,” says Director Adrienne Wong. “We should be happy, but there’s many who are not.”
Despite the positive title, You Are Happy deals with dark territory. It opens with a suicide attempt, and explores themes of hopelessness and depression and the general malaise of the modern world. Interestingly, the play – which is Leanna Brodie’s translation of a French script by Rébecca Déraspe – was chosen by the GCTC in an effort to start the the season off on a positive note.
“You are happy!” says GCTC Artistic Director Eric Coates. “It’s definitely an instruction.”
Coates points out that, like many dark comedies, the play uses a positive comedic approach to dealing with difficult questions. And while at the play’s core is an existential crisis, the power of comedy is to make that crisis approachable and relatable.
A good thing too, because, as the title suggests, this play is ultimately about you, the audience member. You too Tinder, or at least know someone who does. You’re a part of this clinical dating scene, and you’ve asked many of the questions You Are Happy asks. Like this play, you’ve probably noticed that popular culture is at least somewhat to blame for all the confusion.
“It’s a luxury that we can choose the person that we’re going to spend the rest of our lives with as though we’re picking a coat… It’s ‘how is the fabric? How is the fit in the shoulders?’ It’s not ‘I need to keep warm.’”
“For most of us, those are the stories that teach us what romance is and what we should be expecting out of our lives,” says Wong. “If you’ve been watching Bridget Jones’ Diary, what does that do to your expectations of what a relationship should be?”
Much of the comedy of You Are Happy is in the explosion of the myths about romance. These myths, it would seem, are in direct conflict with our happiness. In our desperation to find that one perfect person, we lose sight of what we wanted in the first place.
“It’s a luxury that we can choose the person that we’re going to spend the rest of our lives with as though we’re picking a coat,” says Wong. “It’s ‘how is the fabric? How is the fit in the shoulders?’ It’s not ‘I need to keep warm.’”
You Are Happy comes from a place of worry, but it drives toward something positive by firmly declaring that happiness is possible in this new love-world. The GCTC is trying to make you happy, and part of that has clearly been putting a great deal of effort into the cast and crew, which is a good mix of old hands and new talent. Mélanie Beauchamp returns to the theatre in the central role with Katie Bunting and David Brown supporting. The female leads both work in French and English, something Coates feels is important when working with French material.
“She’s the real deal,” says Coates of Wong. “I’d say more than anyone in my immediate circle I look to Adrienne as an arbiter of good taste and progressive theatre. She’s one of those people who is driving new ideas in the performing arts. She makes me feel delightedly old.”
You Are Happy opens on Saturday September 23 at the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre, home of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. Previews September 21–22. Tickets cost $29–58 online and at the box office.