Andy is a gay massage therapist who gets a very odd visit from a new client, Mr. Miller, who claims to be straight and who voted for Trump but quickly in to the session we learn that Mr. Miller isn’t quite being honest about himself or his intentions. The play is very funny but also plays out like a mini thriller with lots of tension and mystery. Casting is flexible in terms of age.
Two actors - 2 Men
Andy, 25-35, a massage therapist
Mr. Miller, 25-45, a massage client
Wilton Theater Factory - The Foundry
Wilton Manors, Florida, 33305
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.
LONDON REVIEW - GAY TIMES
This fresh and fruity comedy from the pen of Ronnie Larsen is a bite-sized summer treat.
A straight man visits a masseur to relieve the tension in his shoulders. The masseur happens to be gay. Both men are cautious as they sound each other out, ask personal questions, and embark upon a voyage of discovery that will change both their lives…
Alexander Hulme is superb as Mr Miller, revealing hidden depths to the all-American Trump-voting heterosexual hunk, and absolutely shines as his character adapts to the twists and turns of a very surprising tale. Owen Landon is completely adorable as Andy – the slightly neurotic massage therapist who is constantly concerned with keeping things professional and not crossing the line of temptation. These are a pair of performances that compliment each other beautifully, and the comic timing of both actors is impeccable.
The narrative does have a serious issue at its core – the sometimes unhealthy relationships between gay men and straight men – but is too busy being hilarious to dwell upon it for long, and when it does, it’s from unexpected angles. This is a theme of the piece – unexpected angles. Prepare to have the rug well and truly pulled from beneath you. Energetic direction by Andrew Beckett ensures that the laughs come thick and fast. (But do the boys…?!)
Despite being performed in the smaller studio space at the new multi-stage venue, this delicious delight has been put together with all the attention to detail that we’ve come to expect from Above the Stag. Set, also by Andrew Beckett, is impressively camp, and is given a complimentary helping hand by stylish lighting and sound from Andy Hill.
Running at only an hour with no interval, Happy Ending is a delightful diversion to a world of oil and secrets. An unexpected pleasure!
GOLDSTAR AUDIENCE REVIEWS
"I had no idea what to expect, but wow, both actors did a wonderful job. It was a very interesting "turn of the massage table" of events that were unexpected that made it very interesting. I applaud the theater for staging this show, and the actors for performing it. I would definitely recommend it."
DON and BOB
"This play was not what I expected. It was funny, poignant and very well acted. The 2 stars were terrific and believable. Got see it!"
"Well done production - the 2 actors had good chemistry. We all walked out with happy endings in mind."
ALLAN E. DUPUIS
"Ron is an incredibly gifted man who can create a story that has comedy drama and serious tone to it keep up the good work"
"Implausible script with an excellent cast. Acting was pitch perfect. Kudos to the two fine actors. A wonderful surprise."
"Being a massage therapist myself i can relate to the play, it was very well written and the actors were great."
"If you're a gay guy, this is just not to be missed. Nuf said"
"Best Ronnie Larsen play. Actors were great."
WILLIAM T. WISINSKI
"Fantastic unique storyline involving only two cute 30ish guys: one, a massage therapist and the other a nerdy guy who supposedly seeks his first male on male massage. Nervousness and sexual discussions provide each with uncomfortable emotions that end in an interesting twist."
"Wow, Happy Endings was incredible, it played to a packed house last night and the entire audience found it very entertaining! Bravo! I think that you gained many new followers and supporters of your work!"
"I went to see Happy Ending yesterday and wanted to take a moment to tell you how much I enjoyed it. The writing, the acting and even the scenery were all spot on. Thanks for a wonderful and thought provoking evening."
"One of the best productions I’ve seen in quite some time-it was funny and introspective. Ronnie Larson knows how to write a play that captures the natural human emotion. The cast was fantastic and they completely enthralled the audience for the entire length of the show. Better than going to the movies!"
"Well scripted, great plot, great actors."
CHARLES LO DUCA
"Opening night of 'Happy Ending' was a triumph! This one act, two-character play takes you down a predictable road, until you hit a traffic circle that sets the play spinning. The masseur (Richie Stone) and the client (Kyle Duggan), (both cast members of 'Making Porn') are masterfully cast; kudos to Ron Larsen for pairing these two actors. Their nuanced dialogue is quick, funny, and current. Richie's face and body language adds a poignant dimension to his performance as well as the ethical/professional dilemmas posed by this client. His OCD is funny and heartwarming. Kyle's portrayal of an average guy looking for a massage is a well layered, deceptive performance. As Kyle removes his clothing, it becomes metaphor for what he's hiding and revealing. The chemistry and timing between these two actors are excellent. Their repartee is refreshingly unexpected and substantive. These actors bare their souls and more, but their honesty and self-revelations are the takeaways. Be sure to see this gem."
"Great choice of actors that actors worked well together. The sexual tension led to laughable situations that provided an entertaining evening. Well written & directed by Ronnie Larsen. Not a professional critic, but I would say this show is ready for the road!"
"An incredibly written play. The acting and directing was extraordinary. I cried big-time towards the end of the play."
"Awesome and funny."
"Simply perfect!!!!! A+++++"
DOUGLAS J BLACKLY
"Well done! Enjoyed a lot."
"Great play. Funny. Talented actors."
"Ronnie Larson has done it again with great writing and play that will make laugh from beginning to end! The two lead actors do a great job at bringing this play to life. It's a must see!"
"The script kept my interest and the acting delivered impact. I laughed, I got verklempt, I was surprised, I was given something to think about. What more can you ask of a show? Well, the fact that I heard every word, unusual for me, was also key (performed at Wilton Theater Factory- The Foundry - Wilton Manors, FL, which perhaps has 50 seats). Then, for icing on the cake, the actors were super cute and not always dressed. This show was a stand-out."