Written and Performed by Philip Dawkins.
Directed by Jonathan L. Green.
produced by the Greenhouse Theatre
& Sideshow Theatre Company.
At the Greenhouse Theatre, Chicago.
Solo Celebrations mounts a funny, heartfelt personal family perspective.
Philip Dawkins is a local treasure. He is an extremely talented and unique voice in Chicago theatre. His critically acclaimed works include Charm (Northlight Theatre) and Miss Marx: Or The Involuntary Effect of Living (Strawdog Theatre), which won the Joseph Jefferson Award for new work, as well as The Homosexuals (About Face Theater) and Failure: A Love Story (Victory Gardens Theater), both of which received Joseph Jefferson nominations for new work. His play, Le Switch, just concluded a sold-out run with About Face Theatre, where he is an artistic associate.
Dawkins demonstrated another talent – for presenting a 90 minute solo show complete with the playwright-turned-actor moving from himself to play various female family members. His telling of his family’s story is both quite funny and moving. We quickly like and empathize with Dawkins’ story.
He anchors (with a load of family photos) his family story by showing them on a yearly visited Disneyland in Anaheim, California beginning in 1953. This journey features Dawkins exploring the four daughters (including one who is his mother) and his grandmother who raised the daughters alone after their father, a local Albuquerque TV sports reporter, dies while broadcasting on live TV at age 35 (the same age as Dawkins is now).
The family used their almost yearly visits to Disneyland as a place of solace and escape as they recover and move on with life. Dawkins deftly plays each of the four sisters and their mother. His rendition of the seven year old was precious. The Happiest Place On Earth is about more than just a retelling one one family’s story. It is a testimony to the resilience of American families, particularly those whose matriarchs keep the family functioning.
Dawkins asks if there is actually happiness in the world and can we actually ever be happy? He nicely explains what Disney had in mind with his amusement parks as a place where both children can escape into their dreams and adults can once more dream like children. Dawkins states that there is a place where the dream that we wish can come true. He reminds those of us who grew up with Disney’s weekly TV show and subsequently visits one of his “lands” at his parks, that our quests to reach the magical kingdom is worthy of our effort.
Philip Dawkins’ The Happiest Place On Earth is a funny, heartfelt and moving show that both entertains and gets us laughing. It gets us to re-think our that our dreams can come true. You’ll not see anything like this solo show. It is a winner.
Date Reviewed: September 22, 2016.
For more info checkout The Happiest Place On Earth page at theatreinchicago.com.
At the Greenhouse Theatre, 2257 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL, call 773-404-7336, www.greenhousetheater.org, tickets $42 – $48, Wednesdays – Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays atg 2:30pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through October 30, 2016.