Happy Endings

(January 20-February 22, 1986, Atlantic Theatre Company, Chicago)
Happy Endings was the first production put on by the Atlantic Theatre Company, which was founded in 1985 by William H. Macy and David Mamet. The production was composed of eight different playlets strung together, with the only link being that each play takes an idea and carries it to absurd lengths--a theme common to many of Silverstein's plays. Below is a review from the January 21, 1986 edition of the Chicago Tribune:


By Richard Christiansen, Entertainment editor.

The Atlantic Theater Company, which made its Chicago debut  Monday night, comes equipped with some impressive backers and an interesting pedigree.

Its origins are in a Practical Aesthetics Workshop that was started in 1983 by playwright David
Mamet and has gone on for the last few years at New York University, at Mamet`s home in Vermont and, for a three-month residency last spring, while Mamet`s ``The Shawl`` was being prepared for production here, at Goodman Theatre (where the workshop members/Mamet followers were known as the ``Davidites``).

While in Chicago in 1985, the students also presented in the Goodman Studio Theatre an engaging
evening of ``Very, Very Serious Plays,`` written by Mamet`s friend Shel Silverstein and deftly directed by another Mamet friend and theater colleague, W.H.Macy. Last summer, while working with Mamet in Vermont, the company presented a small season of works by Mamet, Silverstein, John Guare and Wallace Shawn in Montpelier, Vt., in which Mamet`s wife, actress Lindsay Crouse, also appeared.

Now, bearing the Atlantic banner and with the names of Mamet, Crouse, Macy and Mosher on their
letterhead as members of the board of directors, these young theater artists have come to Chicago, using the small shoebox theater of the Chicago Actors Project as a launching pad for a program of eight new short plays by Silverstein bunched under the title of ``Happy Endings.``

Nothing if not clever, Silverstein has given the neophyte company a series of eight playlets, none
related in subject matter but each of which presents an amusing premise carried to absurd lengths.

For example, in ``Talk,`` performed in semi-darkness, the  premise is that a man (Tom Donaghy) has taken a woman (Mary McCann) to bed, not with heavy lovemaking in mind, but with the pass- ionate purpose of getting her to talk a blue streak. She protests that she`s not the kind of girl who talks on the first date, that her mother would be shocked if she could see her daughter talking like this, and so on and on. Finally, she breaks down and starts talking, begging her lover to be
gentle in asking her the questions she now eagerly answers.

All the other pieces take off from equally ridiculous assumptions--and sometimes much grosser
subjects. To mention the points from which they proceed would be spoiling the slight fun, for,
once noted, the initial premise simply spins off into increasingly zany variations (and sometimes
with rapidly diminishing returns) until the scene fades out or blacks out. It`s sufficient to say 
that the funniest sketch concerns parents spelling everything out in front of the b-a-b-y, and 
that the most bizarre bit relates to male bodily functions.

The five actors engaged in these plays will need more substantial work to test their mettle; but
Merrill Holtzman, taking various roles from a baby to Mickey Mouse, shows a distinct flair for comic timing.

For the rest, aside from one momentary line lapse on opening night and a tendency to try toohard for their laughs, the actors bring off the free-hand sketches with aplomb under Scott Zigler`s direction and with a minimum of props and scenery.

               `HAPPY ENDINGS`

               Eight new playlets by Shel Silverstein, presented by the
               Atlantic Theater Company and directed by Scott Zigler, 
               with music by Michael O`Toole, costumes by Jennifer 
               Boznos and settings by Phillip Eickhoff.Opened Jan. 20
               at the Chicago Actor`s Project, 2856 N. Halsted St., and
               plays at 8 p.m. Friday and 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, 
               through Feb. 22. No performances Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.
               Length of performance, 1:30.Tickets are $5. Phone

               THE CAST

               Tom Donaghy, Wylie Goodman, Merrill Holtzman,
               Lawrence Kopp, Mary McCann.