Next Act’s current show, There Is a Happiness that Morning Is, is a reflective and funny play that looks at life, love and death through the poems of William Blake. The show is about two professors who get caught (ahem) “doing it” on the campus lawn. It is perceived that this incident has happened the night before, and now we, the audience, are in their classes the following day, as they reckon with what has happened.
1. The Poetry
This show is certainly an appreciation of William Blake and his poetry. And each of the professors uses a different poem by Blake to reflect on the incident of the previous night. One professor analyzes innocence in the poem, “Infant Joy,” and the other evaluates experience in “The Sick Rose.” Not only does poetry appear in the plot, the whole play is written creatively in poetic verse. The poetry, and the writing overall, evoke a sense of existentialism, causing me (and surely others) to reflect on life, love and relationships.
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2. The Actors
Neil Brookshire (Bernard) and Cassandra Bissell (Ellen) take the words of this poem play and bring them to life on stage. Brookshire plays the positive and optimistic folk singer turned professor, who speaks of happy babies, innocence and love in the aftermath of the incident. Contrastingly, Bissell plays the much more aggressive but passionate Ellen. Her frequent swearing and frank (and often vulgar) advice is a beautiful juxtaposition to Bernard’s lighthearted demeanor. Both actors bring so much energy and life to the characters, taking up the whole stage from the first moment.
3. The Comedy
This show is hilarious. From the frequent reminders about the yellow form that needs to be signed by the end of class and the crude nature of some of the lines to the absurdly wonderful [redacted] surprise and the ending, the audience was laughing throughout the show, myself included.
4. The Surprise
Something happens. And I’m not going to be the one to tell you what that is. You’ll just have to see the show to find out. It caught me (and the rest of the audience) off guard and had everyone in uproarious laughter for much of the rest of the show.
There Is a Happiness That Morning Is runs at Next Act Theatre now through March 19. Tickets are available online.