The American premiere of ON THE OTHER HAND, WE’RE HAPPY rolls out Rogue Machine’s new season at the Matrix Theatre. Following a well-received British run, author Daf James’ tender, touching, and timely play has arrived in Los Angeles just in time to greet spring. “Fundamentally, this is a play about love,” opines playwright James. “I hope it will give people an insight into adoption, challenge presumptions across class, and give audiences a chance to interrogate their own sense of social responsibility. It seems to me that we’re increasingly in need of stories of hope and redemption.” Director Cameron Watson adds his perspective: “Coming through the pandemic and living through everything we all experienced and continue to, the title certainly resonates…it is possible there is still happiness…I loved that it is a story about love.” To quote artistic director John Flynn, “We live in a changed world (which) will never be what it was just two years ago…can this enforced change be a catalyst? Can we make a better world?”
It’s present-day England, and Abbie and Josh are in love. Maybe it’s time to think about marriage. And children. The happy couple then make a decision which will shape many lives: perhaps it’s time to look beyond genes and consider creating a safe, loving home for one of the world’s many lost children, a child who doesn’t have the family which Abbie and Josh want to provide. As they navigate the adoption maze, their commitment grows – and finally they are matched with Tyler, a four-year-old girl whose mother Kelly is unable to care for her.
Just as things are going so well, tragedy strikes. Abbie is fatally injured in a traffic collision. When Josh eventually decides that life must go on, adoption is still on the table. But it is too late to adopt Tyler. By then, she has been promised to another family. As it turns out, Josh is nothing if not determined to adopt and begins the arduous and frustrating trip through the adoption maze a second time. Only to find out that Tyler is again available. Will Josh adopt, even though his wife is no longer in the picture? Will Tyler become his daughter?
Skillfully helmed by director Cameron Watson, this ode to life is an actor’s dream, offering juicy roles to the three talented principals, Rori Flynn (Abbie/Emma), Christian Telesmar (Josh/Liam), and Alexandra Hellquist (Tyler/Counselor/Kelly). The production team has created a theater-in-the-round to showcase the story – and it’s an entirely new look for the Matrix Theatre. Congratulations, Stephanie Kerley Schwartz (scenic design), Jared A. Sayeg (lighting design), Christopher Moscatiello (sound design), Michelle Hanzelova (graphic design), Kate Bergh (costume design), Ron Bottitta (dialect coach), and Bjorn Johnson (fight director). Your team effort is an unqualified success.
ON THE OTHER HAND, WE’RE HAPPY follows the long and circuitous journey between wanting and getting in the adoption universe. The play touches upon the many factors that feed into successfully adopting a child – but also into issues like loss, grief, and boundless love. Daf James has also managed to squeeze lots of gentle chuckles into the entire process. ON THE OTHER HAND, WE’RE HAPPY is character-driven, with plot taking second chair to the thoughts and feelings of each of the trio of actors. Kudos to the strong casting and direction. Daf James tries his best to pose the right questions – and possible answers – in his thought-provoking piece. This is a tale which taps into humanity and what constitutes love – the love between partners, spouses, parents, children. Now and again, audience members get to briefly participate. Audience alert: The play runs for 90 minutes with no intermission. In addition, the Matrix Theatre follows current COVID-19 protocols. Proof of full vaccination and masks indoors are mandatory.
ON THE OTHER HAND, WE’RE HAPPY runs through April 10, 2022, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays, and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. The Rogue Machine performs in the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046. Tickets are $45. There will be four “Pay-What-You-Can” performances with minimums starting at $10 and going up to $20. Check website for dates. For information and reservations, call 855-585-5185 or go online.