‘Maybe Happy Ending’ at Alliance Theatre
Makes You Happy
There’s no maybe about it. The U.S. debut of “Maybe Happy Ending,” now playing at the Alliance Theatre, will delight you.
This innovative musical about human-like robots in Seoul, Korea, has won six Korean musical awards and the Richard Rodgers Award. But this story is not about robots. It’s about humanity. And the two main characters, Claire (Cathy Ang) and Oliver (Kenny Tran), seem to be as human as any one of us.
Claire and Oliver live in private rooms in a building that houses obsolete helperbots. With no humans for them to service any longer, they live out the rest of their lives in their own rooms without venturing outside their doors. That is until Claire’s charger malfunctions, and to save her life she must cross the hallway to borrow one from her neighbor.
Oliver spends his days pining for his past owner, listening to jazz albums and reading the latest monthly jazz magazine brought to him by the mail carrier. When he hears a knock on his door and sees Claire, he’s reluctant to let her inside. But in time he relents, and within days they become friends.
In time Claire and Oliver find themselves falling in love, but they know they must squash their feelings.
Claire exclaims, “Robots don’t have feelings.”
With lifespans that will expire within a year or two, they must decide whether to keep living with deep feelings for one another only to suffer loss upon the other’s expiration or to end future pain now.
“Maybe Happy Ending,” whose setting takes place in the future, reminds us how similar we are to these helperbots.
The Korean version of “Maybe Happy Ending” won Best Book, Lyrics & Music at the Korean Musical Awards, and the English version was awarded 2017’s Richard Rodgers Production Award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The Alliance Theatre pairs a wonderful cast with innovative set designs and lighting. A revolving stage instantaneously transports the audience from Oliver’s apartment to Claire’s, to an outside garbage alley. Long rays of horizontal and vertical light beams on frames zoom in and out, blocking out large parts of the set, bringing focus to a tiny portion of a room and a helperbot’s heart.
Book and music by Will Aronson and Hue Park, directed by Michael Arden, “Maybe Happy Ending” runs through Feb. 16 on the Coca-Cola Stage at the Alliance Theatre.
Dez Duron . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Gil Brentley
John D. Haggerty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . James
Diana Huey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . JiYeon