Check out our latest review by Jerry Kraft of Seattle Actor.
Review – 10 Days to Happiness
Angel Productions Inc.
February 28, 2014
It’s a simple enough mistake. A woman whose life is a mess finds an ad for a peaceful retreat in the country that only requires a donation to pay for the food and lodging. Her mistake is that she somehow overlooks the fact that a Vipassan retreat involves total silence for the entire time and ten and half hours a day of meditation. Well… in Donna Rae Davidson‘s very funny and smartly engaging “10 Days to Happiness” we learn a great deal about this woman, as well as the silent companions around her, and what this experience changes in her and her understanding of life.
As the central character in what is essentially a one-woman show (as the others are silent almost throughout) Davidson has a big job in carrying a 90 minute soliloquy, as what we are hearing is a combination of her thoughts at the time and her recollection of the experience. Much to her credit as a writer, the show never really gets tiresome or redundant, although the daily repetition of the discipline is certainly challenging. At the same time that it has fun with the formality and enforced calm of meditation, she is always pushing her own distinctive, exasperated personality at the same time that she is being internally transformed.
This woman is a big character, loud, brash, assertive at the same time that she is honest enough to know that the way she’s been running her life hasn’t really been working. From the moment she steps on stage it’s apparent that she’s gotten herself into something that she’s not sure she can endure, at the same time that she’s clearly not a quitter. What she will gradually guess about the identities of those students around her will be the markers for the re-definition of herself.
Co-directed by Therese Diekhans and Laurel Paxton, my biggest criticism is that the strident tone in which she enters the experience is sustained too long and thus we are not able to see a gradual emergence of the change that she will recognize at the show’s conclusion. Even if that initial, emotional orientation is, in fact, carried too long, the play really requires more variation and modulation in her tone and volume. I think we need to see her gradually moving more deeply into herself to accept the process of changes that are taking place within that interior consciousness.
As the others who populate the retreat, all three of the supporting players were remarkably successful in creating distinct and well-rounded characters with almost no dialogue until the end, when they are allowed a “talking” day and we are able to see who they really are, as opposed to who Donna has made them in her mind. Lara Fox, Angela Amos and Katherine Grant play a number of characters, all of whom are much purer meditators (at least in Donna’s mind) and all of whom are unique, recognizable and amusing. I especially enjoyed Angela Amos’ “slow walking woman”, Katherine Grant’s “Teacher” and her “breakfast place stealer” and Lara Fox’s sense of advanced depth and authority throughout.
The use of projected images above the stage and a music score by Rob Jones (with clever lyrics by Davidson) and the additional characters added to the scale of the world within the retreat and removed us from the fundamental, self-centered constraints of a solo show. The Scenic design was both practical and quite effective. The costumes, the movement and the overall emotional setting was believable and effective.
This production is a re-mounting of a production that was first done in October at the same location, with a different music director and, no doubt, a few changes in the script. It is a fast-paced, worthwhile, enjoyable and smartly realized piece of work and one that will leave you thinking about just how much you might be able to hear if you could silence your own voice, your own mind, long enough to hear the reality of your own life.