Adoption is a complex subject, involving the transfer of a child from one set of parents to another. The adoptive parents’ joy is often the culmination of years of frustration and pain. Emotions are even more fraught for birth parents and children at or beyond the age where memories are formed. It takes care and nuance to address adoption, and On the Other Hand, We’re Happy goes beautifully, searingly, deep.
On the Other Hand, We’re Happy delves into the adoption experience from all angles, quick-cutting through time and location in a way that feels cinematic, despite the sparse set. There is some minimal breaking of the fourth wall, but it has no effect on the powerful storytelling from a dense and moving script by Welsh playwright Daf James.
In the play’s U.S. premiere, from Rogue Machine Theatre, now running at the Matrix on Melrose. Cameron Watson masterfully directs the three actors who play seven roles. As aspiring adoptive parents, birth mother, child and the government workers who facilitate exchanges, they shift identities seamlessly.
The remarkable Alexandra Hellquist believably ages from six-year-old child to adult, and also plays her own troubled birth mother in a stunning performance.
Christian Telesmar is the heart-wrenched adoptive father who must navigate the emotional, psychological and legal hurdles to happiness; he also inhabits the role of abusive birth father. He masterfully displays sensitivity and strength.
Rori Flynn is the glue that holds the group together, exuding the pathos of an adoptive mother wary of taking on more than she can handle but exhibiting the warmth and kindness that helps guide the key players toward their destiny together.
Despite its head-on confrontation of difficult subjects, On the Other Hand, We’re Happy maintains humor and humanity. It’s a riveting and intimate 90 minutes.
On the Other Hand, We’re Happy runs through April 10 at Rogue Machine in the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave. Shows are Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays at 3:00. No show on Monday, March 7. Tickets are $45, $35 for seniors and are available here. Patrons must show proof of vaccination and booster and remain masked throughout the performance.