Pleasantly saucy, zany and over-the-top, Happy Sauce is a fast-paced satirical farce driven at turbo speed by the incredible energy of its young and fresh cast.
The press release states that Happy Sauce was conceived in 2004 by a group of students at the Boston University College of Fine Arts. Since then, it has taken shape and seen success at a number of other festivals before receiving this world premiere as a full-length show.
The performance I attended was on the opening night of the 10th Annual FringeNYC festival. It was the 11pm show at the Access Theatre—which for those of you that don't know, is an intimate space located on the 4th floor of a walkup. After a busy Friday of hustling around the city, my thought as I climbed up the steps was that not enough people would be in attendance. I was wrong—in fact the house was filled with an attentive and ready-to-laugh-out-loud audience.
Divided into two acts, the show starts off in the college apartment of two kids with big dreams. They want to make millions with a simple formula for an extra-special sauce—and one of them hopes the success of the product will get him the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately, the day a big investor is scheduled to visit them, one of their friends seems to drop dead after ingesting this happy sauce. What happens after this first few minutes of the play is like a roller coaster of one crazy event after another.
The 70-minute show flies by—before you know it, you feel exhausted from the ride. We follow the journey of Rudolph Happy, played with youthful pizzazz by the curly-haired and wide-eyed Jonathan Silver. Silver has the ability to use facial expressions that tickle in a way that Harpo Marx did. And we all sit up when the Dream Girl (played by Mary Wiseman, making her New York stage debut,) enters. Her beautiful mane of red curly hair and raspy voice are a throwback to another time and place—and we all hope Rudolph gets this Dream Girl. Gabe Levey as the big investor Mr. Turtle brings an element of experienced confidence to the show.
Playwright Benjamin Lewis takes the stage as Tommy Bottles, Rudolph's college roommate. With a splash of some water and a costume change, Lewis transforms his mannerisms quickly in the second part of the production. His writing style is racy and entertaining.
The most notable performance comes from actor Matt Citron who plays Felix, the friend that allegedly died from consuming the sauce. His comedic timing, use of vocal modulation, and physical comedy are absolutely dynamite.
Matt Dickson makes his directorial debut with this piece. I sensed the director might also be an actor and then read he will be making his Broadway debut (as an actor) this fall in Tom Stoppard's three part trilogy, The Coast of Utopia. Since no credit was given for lighting, costume or set design, we can only assume that Dickson, stage manager Giverny Petitmermet, and the entire cast all pitched in. Kudos to all involved in this production for wearing the many theatrical hats while keeping the audience bursting out in fits of laughter.