REVIEWSTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

Escape From Happiness

By George F. WalkerESCAPE-FROM-HAPPINESS by walker

Directed by Genevieve Thompson

Produced by Infamous Commonwealth Theatre

At Raven Theatre’s West stage

Absudist dark comedy isn’t funny, just silly-stupid

Infamous Commonwealth Theatre company is know for finding terrific plays and mounting them with high production values. But not this time. When the best thing about a play is the set (designed by Kathy Arfken), you know the work is in trouble! I can’t understand why they chose anything by Canadian playwright George F. Walker to mount? He may be the worst playwright to find his plays on stage that I’ve ever encountered. His Escape From Happiness is a raucous kitchen sink dark comedy that not only isn’t funny but it is a silly-stupid over-written, convoluted and totally irritating waste of time.

escape from happiness

This 2 hours, 35 minute work wears us out with long kooky conversational tangents, goofy characters that we find more irritating than funny. The plot is a meandering series of confrontational scenes that try to mock and satirize every possible family, social, and interpersonal relationship characteristic  know to man. Filled with a group of dysfunctional and unlikable characters led by hyper-talkative family matriarch, Nora (Barbara J Anderson), we meet a series of losers, neurotics, petty criminals, wound-too-tight cops all trying to cope with inevitable confrontations.

The characters are over-written, over-played moving the work from an absurdist comedy to a wordy stupid, much too long, viciously eccentric failure. The cast works hard to make this impossible material stage worthy. The result is complete silliness that made me embarrassed for the talented cast.¬† Unfortunately, Walker’s goofy work needs serious edits and a refocus. Infamous Commonwealth Theatre will bounce back, don’t give up on them.

Not Recommended

Tom Williams

At Raven Theatre’s West Stage, 6157 N. Clark, Chicago, IL,call 312, 458-9780, tickets $20, $15 senior/student, Thursdays thu Saturdays at 8:30 pm, Sundays at 3:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 35 minutes with intermission.

5 thoughts on “Escape From Happiness

  • Your review is very curious, considering I was in the house for the same performance you saw. I had the exact opposite reaction, and found that the audience, many of whom were laughing throughout the performance, really enjoyed this show. From your write-up, it seems that you have an axe to grind with the playwright. You came into the show knowing full well that you weren’t going to like what you saw. Your review was probably written before you sat down in the theatre with your free “press” ticket. If I see a play advertised by a playwright I don’t like, I don’t go.

    I also find it very interesting that you spend THREE WHOLE paragraphs raking a playwright over the coals for his extensive “talkiness.” Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black? Your review could have been summed up in one sentence: ” I don’t like George F. Walker, his plays, or folks that produce them.”

    By purchasing a ticket and attending a performance, you’re choosing to take a journey for the two hours that you’re present with these characters. Unfortunately for you, your journey ended before it started due to your obvious preconceived bias. I can only hope that the people who read your blog will also read the review by the Trib. That particular reviewer took the ride and clearly enjoyed herself. As did I.

  • I do not go to shows prejudging them. It is true that I’m not a fan of Walker but I’m a huge fan of Infamous Commonwealth Theatre and I have praised their work through the years. I’m not the only reviewed who thinks Walker is terrible – read Chicago Stage Review by Venus Zarris. Why you viciously attack me because I disagree with you? You tell me how to attend a show. Well, I see more that 300 plays a year for the past 10 years, so I go expecting to enjoy each show yet sometimes the play just isn’t stage worthy. And you are wrong, about 1/3 of the audience laughed – all the folks around me including my guest NEVER laughed.

  • You’ll note that in my response I didn’t defend the playwright, either. The script, clearly, has flaws, and in my opinion, there was beauty in the mess. Relationships are messy. We say nasty things to each other, and then we’re forced to deal with the resulting circumstances. Life isn’t an episode of “Leave It To Beaver.” I found it refreshing to hear these characters react unfiltered and say what they felt. I enjoy Walker’s ability to give his characters the ability to speak honestly. GFW isn’t Shakespeare, but calling “Escape From Happiness” unworthy of production seems a bit extreme to me. I’ve seen a few plays this season, most notably a play about a flood at a certain downtown theatre, that need much more “work” than EFH.

  • Josh Atkins


    Thanks for coming to see the play, and for your support of Infamous Commonwealth. I’m glad you enjoyed Escape From Happiness. We’ve received tremendous feedback from patrons about this show, and we’re looking forward to bringing you another helping of thought-provoking, entertaining, and exciting theatre next season. As always, word-of-mouth is crucial to what we do, so if you liked the show, tell a friend.

    We respect every dollar that every patron spends when purchasing a ticket to one of our shows, so it’s always our objective to swing for the fences each night. Some nights we’ll miss, but hey, we’ll have fun doing it. You might not like every show we do, and that’s okay. We’re big kids at ICT, so we’ll live to suit-up another day.

    Thanks again, and thanks Tom for allowing constructive discussions.

    Josh Atkins, ICT Company Member

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