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Coen’s Bleak ‘Happy Hour’ Features Bar Stool Bloviator: Review

Aya Cash and Joey Slotnick in the Ethan Coen play
Aya Cash and Joey Slotnick in the Ethan Coen play "Happy Hour," presented by the Atlantic Theater Co. in New York. The trilogy of one-act plays is scheduled to run though Dec. 31. Photographer: Kevin Thomas Garcia/Boneau/Bryan-Brown via Bloomberg

Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) -- The depressives in filmmaker Ethan Coen’s “Happy Hour” may provide succor to a New Yorker in a temporary funk. More likely, the three inert one-act plays about inert people will bring you down further.

“End Days” begins with a bloviator in a bar (Gordon MacDonald). He rants about coal consumption in China and global warming in Switzerland (“Now the glacier is just a little yarmulke at the very top of the mountain”). He complains about the world going digital, while at home struggles with the locks on his front door. Inside he shouts at his offstage wife and clips newspaper stories.

In “City Lights,” the best of the Atlantic Theater Co. trio, a hermitic songwriter (Joey Slotnick) meets two lonely women in their apartment while searching for a cassette demo tape he left in a taxi. He has sparks with one of them (Aya Cash), although the cab driver (Rock Kohli) proves the smoother man. Cassie Beck, playing a bemused sidekick, steals the show with understated mugging.

“Wayfarer’s Inn” concerns two traveling businessmen who are apparent serial philanderers. As Buck (Clark Gregg) primps in their hotel room before a night out, Tony (Lenny Venito) turns existential, questioning why “the world doesn’t like us.”

“A good host makes things nice,” Tony goes on. “For the guest. The world does not make things nice for us.”

The action shifts to a meandering scene in a Japanese restaurant. Tony, with two female guests and a noisy waitress, thinks he makes some progress deciphering the meaning of life.

Coen, also represented on Broadway in “Relatively Speaking,” poses serious questions but is short on answers or laughs.

Through Dec. 31 at the Peter Norton Space, 555 W. 52nd St. Information: http://www.atlantictheater.org or +1-212-279-4200. Rating: * 1/2


What the Stars Mean:
****        Do Not Miss
***         Excellent
**          Good
*           So-So
(No stars)  Avoid

(Philip Boroff writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Jeremy Gerard in New York at jgerard2@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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