BWW Interviews: Staged Reading of HAPPY HOUR at CVRep Moves George Eastman's Script Closer to Production

On December 6th and 7th, the Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre (CVRep) presented a second round of staged readings of George Eastman's "HAPPY HOUR," a show that combines pathos and humor. Gavin MacLeod (known primarily for his television roles in THE LOVE BOAT and THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW) and Michael Shaw (artistic director of Dezart Performs) reprised their roles from the staged readings of an earlier version presented in August 2014.

CVRep's artistic director, Ron Celona, told the audience that he had worked by phone with the playwright, who lives on Cape Cod, to revise the script. They cut about a half hour from the previous version and rewrote Act II. Mr. Celona announced to applause, "I think we've got a play."

HAPPY HOUR explores the relationship between an 83-year-old father and his forty-something son. The father lives alone in New England in the dream retirement home he built with his late wife. He can manage daily tasks only with massive support from his daughter, who lives next door. He has grown forgetful, confused, and frail, but refuses to abandon his father's cane for a walker. His son's suggestion that he consider moving into a high-end senior living facility is met with a loud, "NO!" At the end of the first act, it appears that the father and son will never hear the other's message, because each is too determined to get his own way. By the end of the play, they have learned how to communicate.

Mr. Eastman, who is a retired teacher as well as a writer, got the idea for HAPPY HOUR from watching his father's decline and concluding that elderly people need something to do in order to feel important. He said that HAPPY HOUR is the first play he's written that has "gone anywhere," although he did win a contest with a one-act submission a long time ago, and a play that he co-wrote was produced in a community theater in 1973.

Mr. MacLeod, who lives in the Coachella Valley, got involved in the show because he loves CVRep's work. Mr. Shaw got involved because Mr. MacLeod, a close friend who has appeared in some of Mr. Shaw's productions, asked him to take part. "I couldn't say 'no' to Gavin," Mr. Shaw said.

At the post-show reception (L to R) Joyce Bulifant, Lucia Gasbarri, Kaye Ballard

Mr. MacLeod is willing to travel to perform HAPPY HOUR and wants to conduct staged readings in other parts of the United States. When asked about taking HAPPY HOUR to New York, he did not rule out a Broadway run. He noted that producers have instituted staged readings in New York to avoid the high cost of mounting a full-fledged Broadway production. He considers HAPPY HOUR to be a potential vehicle for a run consisting of staged readings.

Curtain Call (L to R) Director Ron Celona, Playwright George Eastman, Michael Shaw, and Gavin MacLeod Photo: Jay Jarvis

Vincent DiPaolo, an actor and friend of Mr. McLeod's, who attended with his wife, Kathy, said he was impressed with Mr. MacLeod's and Mr. Shaw's passion in performing HAPPY HOUR. He said, "I would drive from LA to see it again." Mr. DiPaolo may have that opportunity - Mr. Celona told the audience he hopes to present the work fully staged as part of CVRep's 2015-16 season.

Vince and Kathy DiPaolo with director Ron Celona, at the post-show reception. Photo: Jay Jarvis

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From This Author Audrey Liebross

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