‘Too Much Unhappy’ is a poignant reflection of life and obstacles during the pandemic
Outstanding Zoom production by Aaron Posner feels reminiscent of in-person theater
“Too Much Unhappy,” a musical by the American University Department of Performing Arts, leaves its audience feeling anything but unhappy. This intriguing musical explores the human condition in our Zoom-filled pandemic times.
The cast and crew debuted the musical online on April 2 and 3.
The brainchild of Aaron Posner, an award-winning playwright and professor at AU, the musical was inspired by the works of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. Each of the characters in the musical portray younger versions of the characters in Chekov’s plays. Posner shared during the talkback after the April 2 show that he wanted to conduct a “thought experiment” of what each character would sound like today.
The piece contains many thought-provoking monologues in which characters juxtapose the perspective of misery and opportunity in life; a “life is awful” versus “life is awesome” debate. Throughout the musical, many characters change their existential perspective as they realize the opportunities that surround them.
The musical explores love, loss and opportunity through themes that categorize the acts. Some include “Room for Improvement,” “Miserableness,” “Life/Story,” “Too Existential” and “Purposeful.”
Throughout the musical, actors occasionally break the fourth wall when the characters discuss what it is like to navigate this period of life through a camera.
Despite the musical being streamed live online, it feels fairly similar to an in-theater experience.
Half of the musical was performed live from the actor’s homes, and the other half showed pre-recorded clips.
During the musical’s live portions, the characters sat in front of their cameras speaking, similar to how we conduct our classes now. They were able to convey a feeling of being in an intimate theater setting.
This ensemble effort was especially amazing given the challenges of this time. The cast and production team created a collaborative theater experience despite being distanced from the virus.
It is obvious that this tight-knit group was able to come together, while adhering to COVID-19 guidelines, to creatively capture such a real aspect of our collective mentality during the pandemic.
The theater community has been greatly impacted due to the pandemic, but the cast and crew of “Too Much Unhappy” prove that when you put your mind to something, you can break such restrictive barriers.