Here’s my quick thumbs-up versus thumbs-down rundown for Green Lake’s Bathhouse Theater’s current production of “The Happy Ones”:
- Ah, Southern California in the ’70. Even if I wasn’t there, I watched it on The Brady Bunch and that was the life
- The soundtrack to The Big Chill is my favorite
- Fun-lovin’, outspoken leading lady in tall leather boots? Groovy!
- Not at all happy. Sad. Too, too sad
- I have no nostalgia for the ’70’s. The ’70’s are over-rated
- Eh, California – who needs it?
I have to confess to growing up in Southern California in the 1970’s. In a ranch house in a suburban subdivision. Everyone I knew had swimming pools. We wore lots of polyester. We were privileged and sun-drenched.
So The Happy Ones did bring on some nice nostalgia vibes. Yes, we did know heavily-tanned women who were divorced, smoked too much, partied too hard, cooked casseroles, and wore too much eyeliner and false eyelashes. Yes, we did know guys with Starsky and Hutch-style shades and big sideburns, wide ties, pinky rings and vinyl jackets who were likewise hedonists and played lots of golf.
This all seems harmless enough but then a startling cultural clash with a group of immigrants also appearing at that time in that place, refugees from the US war in Vietnam, intrudes. We get an unimaginably tragic encounter which is a brave choice of subject matter, but needs to be handled with great sensitivity. This production gives it a good try but feels uncomfortably inadequate. How can this deepest of losses make sense when your lifestyle is so shallow?