The Happiest Song Plays Last – by AnnMarie Welser

May 14, 2013 in Blog by Cindy-Bandle-Young-Critics

Each family is unique. Within each lies a trail of helpful lessons and adventures, yet none stand better alone than united. Many see the opportunity to help one another and to pass on the lessons they have learned, creating a universal family. Quiara Alegria Hudes displays this theme in the last installment to her Pulitzer-prize winning storyline, “The Happiest song plays last”. This story is based upon Elliot’s family life and the role family plays in a community. The final edition to this trilogy upholds the dramatic, dazzling and moving status Playwright Hudes has created. Not only did this installment terrifically end a great storyline, but also shined on its own.

 In this chapter of Elliot’s life, he has become an actor playing a role he knows all too well, an American soldier. As Elliot (Armando Riesco) takes part in this Pakistan placed film he falls for his co-star Shar (Fawzia Mirza) and faces his past by meeting Ali (Demetrios Troy), the Iraqi working along with the movie. Elliot’s cousin, Yaz (Sandra Marquez), on the other hand is still in their home of Pennsylvania. Yaz, the “mother” of the homeless, struggles to start her own family and begins to wonder if she should go against her morals to do so. As the story progresses so do the characters. Through death and protests, the theme of the play was highlighted, finding oneself

Director Edward Torres complemented this play. His stage directions made the entire theatre feel involved. The lights and projection design by Jesse Krug and John Boesche brought all to amazement as they were able to project a web cam chat. From bombs exploding to pots and pans clinking, the sounds completed the play. Guitarist Nelson Gonzalez smoothly made this product flow with his guitar. The set design complemented the Goodman’s theater size and the actors were able to use this as an advantage. They made the simple set work through always maintaining the audiences focus. As actors roamed through the theatre technical elements such as lights and sounds captured the audience’s attention, but the acting finished it. Each character, large and small, perfected this play. Armando Riesco was the ideal fit for Elliot, he was able to move the audience from laughs to tears almost effortlessly, as did James Harm who, as Lefty, brought a brighter side to the production bringing all to smile.

With a tremendous storyline, breathtaking set and terrific acting, “The Happiest song plays last” is not a production to miss. It taught me that many lessons, especially the true definition of a family. Family is a universal term. With her play displaying the affects people have on one another, Hudes shows that the word family spreads far from your pedigree.