Sun-Sentinel Review - Happy Ending

Sun-Sentinel Review

by

Rod Hagwood

To define the new play “Happy Ending” too precisely is to give away all its sly little secrets.

So we really shouldn’t pin down whether the one-act getting a world premiere at Fort Lauderdale’s Empire Stage is a thriller, comedy, drama or sex romp (or all of those – wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

What we can tell you without deflating the gay-themed work is that it has plenty of eye-popping nudity and oh-my-goodness sexual situations. But that will come as little surprise to those familiar with playwright Ronnie Larsen’s previous works (“Making Porn,” “All-Male Peep Show,” “My Boyfriend the Stripper”).

The story is simple, almost stripped bare. It's 2016 and Andy (Matthew Pappadia) has finally managed to scrimp and save enough to open his very own professional massage therapy studio. In walks Mr. Miller (Josh Berresford), a wound-tight and twitchy client there for his first-ever massage.

For much of “Happy Ending,” the two rub each other the right way and the wrong way as Mr. Miller repeatedly steps over the line with probing questions and mixed signals. When he chillingly asserts, “I chose wisely” while gauging the situation, we’re not sure if he means Andy’s professionalism or something sinister. The psychological zigging and zagging between the two allows Larsen to weave in varied themes such as politics (tramping on Trump with some broadsided jabs), sexual orientation, economic class, social media and even discourses on Steely Dan and Adele.

As agendas seem to slip-slide in and out of the narrative, you can hardly be blamed for thinking, “Where is this going?” Just relax. “Happy Ending” does get there. It all comes spilling out in a nice little turn after about an hour, with no intermission.

There are still some production glitches to be worked out. Even though the play feels slight, there are still pacing peccadilloes. And while Berresford and Pappadia both do a fine job of staying in the moment and – just as importantly – not telegraphing twists, they are helpless to contend with little character issues. For example, there is a passing nod to Andy being an OCD neat freak, which is summarily dropped as soon as the punch line sorta-kinda lands. And a comic bit involving lip syncing is hysterically funny, even if it is incongruously campy for one of the characters.

Having said that, handsomely produced and brightly lit, the show looks great. And even with the picayune character hitches, Larsen’s script is scrubbed clean of tidy aphorisms and fall-back cliches that have peppered his previous works. His man-on-man milieu has a less strident ring to it here. With “Happy Ending” we can see that his predilection for gay sex is beginning to give way to something gay sexy.

“Happy Ending” runs through May 28 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Drive, Fort Lauderdale. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays; 7 p.m. Fridays and 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $35 and $50. To order, call 954-826-8790 or go to RonnieLarsen.com

 

 

Meet the Cast

Josh Berresford

Josh Berresford has been seen on such networks as NBC, ABC, HBO, MTV, Biography Channel, Discovery Channel and the here! TV Network.  He created the TV pilot, "Wolf Island" with writer Timothy O'Leary.  "Wolf Island" had the honor of having a staged reading at the SAG Foundation last summer.

Josh first caught the public’s attention in his role as series regular, Cory, on here! Television’s, Dante’s Cove, leading to future television roles, including Boardwalk Empire on HBO, MTV's Eye Candy, NBC Television’s series Kings, the Biography Channel’s Celebrity Close Calls and Discovery Channel’s Mob Confessions. Josh can also be seen in the frequently-televised infomercial fitness video, Insanity.

Josh has appeared in national print advertisements for Progessive Auto Insurance, Asics, Bunavail, Enbrel, Seroquel, State Street Investments and HBO’s Big Love.  Josh works behind the camera as well, lending his voice to numerous commercials.  His voiceovers include Bud Light, Pizza Hut, The History Channel, Sharpies, Vitamin Water, Mike & Ike Candies, Sunny Delight, Channel One and Brother P-Touch Labels.  As a man dedicated to helping those in need, Josh did a Public Service Announcement for “Drug Free America.”

In addition to his work in television, Josh has appeared in independent movies, including such noted films as the international indie film, Aleksandr's Price, Screaming in Asian, Aversion, The Way I See Things, Take Out, Missing Jane and Yitzy.  Josh's most recent theater performance was as Roy Bryant in Emmett, Down in My Heart (Based on the true story of Emmett Till which started the Civil Rights Movement) at the Castillo Theatre for The Allstars Project on Theatre Row in New York City.  Other stage credits include such Off-Broadway productions as Birdy’s Bachelorette Party, Pirate Pete’s Parrot and the starring role in the New York City Fringe Festival production of Pieces on the Board, written and directed by Tim O'Leary, writer and co-creator with Josh Berresford of the TV Pilot "Wolf Island", which had a staged reading for the SAG Foundation last summer.

 

Matthew Pappadia

New Yorker, Matthew Pappadia is thrilled to be a part of "Happy Ending". Most recently, Matthew Pappadiareceived his masters degree in Occupational Therapy with plans to use theater to improve the well-being of LGBT youth. Since graduation, Matthew has helped develop many new works for film, with his most recent involvement in the series Don't Schmuck It Up (Ashley). Matthew also maintains a career in international modeling, having been featured in Vanity Hype Magazine last August. He will be preparing soon for his third stand up comedy show with the Boulton Center of New York. As well as performing, Matthew Pappadia is the CEO of PapsFitness, an online health and wellness consultation business. "I have two pockets: one for gratitude, one for humility, and with them, I feel like the richest man in the world". 

A World Premiere of a New Play

Click here for Individual Tickets

DATES:

May 4th - May 28th

Thursday: 8:00pm

Fridays: 7:00pm

Saturday: 5:00pm & 8:00pm

Sunday: 5:00pm

Tix: $35-$50

PHONE:
954-826-8790

ADDRESS:

Empire Stage, 
1140 N. Flagler, 
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33304

E-MAIL:
RonnieLarsenPresents@gmail.com

 Click here to buy a Season Pass

About the play

This marks for the first time Ronnie Larsen has written a play set in Ft. Lauderdale and the first time he has premiered a new play in Ft. Lauderdale. Taking place firmly at the end of 2016, Happy Ending introduces you to a simple, perfectly professional massage therapist who goes about his day job never knowing who his next client might be. When a new customer walks in the door -- full of conflicting signals, hidden agendas and forbidden topics -- all of the job's usual decorum goes out the window. Watch as rules get broken, skin gets bared, the truth gets twisted and things get steamy in playwright Ronnie Larsen's sexy two-character play Happy Ending, hitting Ft. Lauderdale's Empire Stage.

 

Contains Nudity and Sexual Situations

Happy Ending - Excerpt

MR. MILLER:  This is a real massage, right?

ANDY:  Absolutely. 

MR. MILLER:  Nothing funky, right?

ANDY:  What do you mean?

MR. MILLER:  Nothing crazy, right?  

ANDY:  Nothing crazy.

MR. MILLER:  Just a real, straight up massage, right?

ANDY:  Have you had bad experiences in the past?

MR. MILLER:  No, I’ve never done this before. First time.  Swear to God. 

ANDY:  You’ve never had a massage before. 

MR. MILLER:  Well, not from a guy.  My wife use to give me massages but I didn’t pay her.  I went to one of those Oriental places and after 5 minutes this gal in a kimono had her hand on my junk and I was like, “No way, Sayonara, I’m outta here.”  Not what I was looking for, you understand.  

ANDY:  I understand. 

MR. MILLER:  I just want to be totally clear. 

ANDY:  Mr. Miller, you are making yourself absolutely clear. 

MR. MILLER:  I just want to make sure we’re both on the same page.