by Rébecca Déraspe
translated by Leanna Brodie
Playwrights Canada Press, 2016
“Writing of love,” Rébecca Déraspe remarks in her author’s notes, “means searching for the humanity inside the caricature.”
“Writing of love
Means making do
And seeing the sickly sweet conceit of lovers
And loving that, too
Writing of love is no joke
Or else too much of one”
You Are Happy, then, is a play about love. A play about being single. About being in a couple.
It opens with Jeremy, despairing, hiding inside his sister’s closet, among her “upscalerrific” dresses. Threatening—again—to slit his wrists and end it all. To die from his broken heart.
Next we’re off grocery shopping with his sister, Bridget. The “Tap Choose Sniff Judge Weigh Count Check Pick” of the supermarket. The canned tomatoes, the baby-care aisle, the happy newborns, and the eco-friendly disposable diapers. The realization that:
“Everyone needs to be two
Even my mother
Who’s been cheated on in her own marriage bed
Even my father
Who cheats on his wife with a man
Even that girl
Wearing a black eye for makeup
Even that guy
Holding his girlfriend’s hand like it was a rancid salmon.”
And so when Bridget meets Chloe at the supermarket, standing there in front of the women’s razors, it seems only natural to pair her off with her brother.
It’s a play about “disatrous date stories,” “forget-the-condom stories,” “genital warts,” and “abortions.” Of having someone else look after you when you have the flu. Of being happy, or telling yourself you’re happy, that at last your pillows will be divided into two distinct halves. It’s a play about being awkward (“So I hear you’re a waitress… On purpose?”). About fitting in, going with the flow, finding someone because that’s what everyone else does. Of saying “I love you” after spending all of sixteen hours together.
It’s full of fresh, tongue-in-cheek, we’re-on-your-side, all-in-this-together imagery. Of tickle fights and first kisses.
“I’ve turned into
The softest thing
In the whole entire World
And suddenly I’m running on hot sand with my blue dress blowing in the breeze and I don’t smoke anymore either I’m healthy and I love the hot ocean wind over wide-open landscapes
We’re going to kiss in less than three seconds
I’m scared I’ve forgotten how
I feel like a twelve-year-old at a bonfire”
“We’re exactly the right size,” Chloe and Jeremy tell themselves, “A comfortable fit.” While Bridget, ever single, tells herself, “The silence in my apartment feels so damn good.”
Déraspe’s writing—in Leanna Brodie’s always on-key translation—is sweet and inquisitive at once. It never cloys and probes away beneath the surface. It’s light-hearted fare, sure, but the type of play you come out of thinking you’ll send someone to see. The type of play that provides plenty of food for thought over a glass of wine after the theatre.
“Once in a while,” Chloe confides:
“I tell myself this can’t actually last
That it’s too weird
That it’s got to end
I mean come on
It can’t be him
It can’t be like this”
Review by Peter McCambridge
Read an excerpt here