The Happy Ones Messes With Your (American) Dreams

Categories: Theater


Playwright Julie Marie Myatt says often she starts writing with an image in mind. The images that sparked The Happy Ones come from Bill Owens' classic book Suburbia, with its photos of Tupperware parties, Big Wheels, and tract houses in '70s California. Myatt, whose father was a Marine stationed in Vietnam, picked the year 1975 and set the play in Orange County, which was then a fairly conservative, mostly white, area. In April of that year, Saigon fell, and an estimated 125,000 Vietnamese refugees came into the U.S, most of whom settled in the Orange County cities of Westminster and Garden Grove.

In The Happy Ones, directed by Jonathan Moscone, artistic director of the California Shakespeare Company, Myatt wanted to take on the American Dream and what it means to different people. Appliance store owner Walter Wells seems to have realized that dream with a house, a pool, a wife, and two kids. Until something horrible happens, and Wells forms an unlikely relationship with a Vietnamese refugee, Bao Ngo. How can sunny people, ill-prepared for it, navigate unspeakable grief? How does anyone?

The Happy Ones opened March 28 and runs through April 21 at Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Building D, Third Floor, S.F. Tickets are $20-$60. 441-8822 or

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