Review: ‘Clinically Happy’ at Charm City Fringe Festival

Nikki Ervice and Takeshi Ohashi. Photograph courtesy of Emotions Physical Theatre.

“It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.” — Naomi Shihab Nye, “So Much Happiness”

If there’s anything other people feel entitled to explain to you, it’s your own happiness: what you need to do to be happier, why you have to be happier, what your unhappiness may be responsible for, with regards to your health and longevity. As much as we may feel it, our own happiness is something often explained back to us.

Emotions Physical Theatre, out of New York City, has put together an incredible program of dance and monologue that explores — rhythmically, symbolically, and scientifically — what it means to be happy. Created, written, and chorgraphed by Shawn Rawls, Clinically Happy invites audiences to spend 45 minutes thinking about happiness. Can it be measured? Can it be increased simply by forcing a smile? Is the secret to happiness hidden within a good bowel movement?

(Let me break in here just for a moment and say, “No.” But this is an encompassing “No” to ALL of that: a no to bowel movements and the happiness it mayn’t contain, mayn’t because it doesn’t, because I was raised in a proper, shame-based tradition and the thing is, Clinically Happy is very very good so it can handle this parenthetical where I say you are either the kind of person who is delighted by scatological humor or you’re me, a member of The Elect, and none of that is anything you ever want to see. What I’m trying to tell you, because I love you, is this: there is a protracted dance piece where someone is violently in the bathroom and I’m just not the beloved for that noise.)

There is joy in watching bodies move, intentionally, and with artistic purpose. And these dancers, under the auspices of Emotions Physical Theatre — Leigh Schanfein, Hannah Bush, Nikki Ervice, Cassandra Stern, Leonardo Brito, and Takeshi Ohashi — are pure joy to watch, in their physicality, in the intelligence they bring to each vignette, and in the wit and whimsy they allow to shine through each movement.

Was I left convinced by the science of happiness? I will say, instead, that I left happier than when I arrive — and that’s maybe more important in the long run.

Clinically Happy played through November 5, 2017 at the 322 Stage – 322 North Howard Street, in Baltimore, MD.

Baltimore’s historic Lexington Market is joining DC Theater Arts in support of our coverage of the Charm City Fringe Festival. The Market closes at 6 PM on weekdays and is closed Sundays, but we recommend that Fringe-goers stop by on Saturday to grab lunch and take a look around, in addition to checking out the local bands which play from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM.


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