I made the snap decision yesterday afternoon to switch my 6:00pm tickets for Blind to Happiness at 7:30pm (I needed to allot myself more time for writing and publishing reviews; also, shout out to Matt Hertendy at the Ottawa Fringe for swapping my tickets on the fly) and I have to say that had to be one of the best decisions I’ve made so far at this year’s Ottawa Fringe. Tim C. Murphy’s one man show about positive psychology (I’m somewhat generalizing) is not one that I had personally planned to see despite it’s numerous accolades, but now I feel supremely glad that I was able to see such a well-crafted solo show. Blind to Happiness explores the idea that happiness is a choice through the lens of three very different characters who are all experiencing various forms of depression. It’s funny, it’s thought-provoking and, perhaps most importantly, it’s incredibly authentic in its emotional journey.
We start zoomed in on the dish pit of a generic restaurant where Couks (Christopher Owen Ulysses Kennedy) is chewing the proverbial fat with this fellow co-workers Mike the Irish Ph.D candidate and Jamie “Smooth Operator” Bliss whose lives, as the play’s perspective continually zooms out, we also get to see glimpses into. Most of the narrative is constructed through the one sided dialogue between Couks and his colleagues, though we are also treated to Mike’s class lectures on positive psychology and the power of pathological thinking; as well as Bliss’ first poetry reading.
The major thrust of this show is the question: is happiness ultimately a choice we can make for ourselves? Through Mike’s lectures we learn about the tricks our brains can play on us to fill in our literal and figurative blind spots which suggests that we have the ability to think that we’re fine (i.e. by filling in the negative spots with more positive scenarios), even though we’re not. However, as more and more layers are pulled back from these characters we are asked to consider just how difficult it can be to even try to think about the question of happiness when there’s so much set against you.
Blind to Happiness runs like a well-oiled machine with Murphy at the helm confidently steering this production to satisfaction. The physical performance is very engaging, with each character having their own gestures and vocal intonations which keeps them distinct from one another. In particular, the characterization of Couks is incredibly endearing; I think that anyone’s who’s worked in the foodservice industry has probably worked with their own ‘Couks’ at some point or another. For me personally, the focus on grief and the grieving of a parent hit hard. I feel like I knew it was coming the entire show, but I still could not steel myself against the emotional impact at the very end of this show where Couks tells his mom that he loves her before it’s “too late”.
Take my advice, this decision really paid off for me and I don’t think you’ll regret it.
Created and performed by Tim C. Murphy
Venue 4: Odd Box