I’ve been a confirmed Francophile since before birth. My parents hoped that I would be born on the 4th of July, but I stubbornly hung around until Bastille Day. (Hey, it’s still a patriotic holiday!) I was delighted when I discovered that my favorite group of players, Happenstance Theater was going to be doing a French show that opened near my birthday (and also thankfully a few weeks before my due date for Z). If you are a fan of Happenstance Theater, all things French or if you just love a good piece of art, you need to make plans to see Bon Voyage! A Happenstance Escapade, playing now through July 31st at Round House Theatre.
As Bon Voyage begins we are introduced to a troupe of six fascinating characters that are each journeying to visit the Paris Exposition. Each player contributes some of the je ne sais quoi that we love so dearly about the French. Pierre, played by Mark Jaster, represents the love for craft and the celebration of the artiste. Lou, played by Sabrina Mandel, delights with her inspirational feminism that survives even a brilliantly executed tumble into the Catacombs. Karen Hansen’s Frere Jacques showcases the French love of music and innovation. Alex Vernon’s Claude plays perfectly the dreamer and the oblivious everyman. Gwen Grastorf’s Marianne will inspire you to keep marching towards liberty. And my most beautiful favorite local performer, Sarah Olmstead Thomas, delivers a nuanced performance as the mostly mute Oops, proving that clowns can be gorgeous, funny and heartbreaking all at once.
A Happenstance production is always a feast for the eyes from a costume and props perspective as well. Bon Voyage is a true French feast! Sabrina Mandell’s beautiful costumes, from Marianne’s dramatic one shoulder dress to Lou’s bicycle bloomers, will make you smile. Well, they also kind of make me want to lead a revolution and ride a bicycle, but those are stories for another day. The evocative set will send your mind careening through both Paris the beautiful and Paris the crowded big city with people.
The beauty of Bon Voyage is found in so many ways from its expert timing to perfectly sharp, but not unkind wit. The physical humor whether in bicycles or cheese tasting is top-notch. But, more than that, it’s the kind of show you need to see right now. We’re all tired, we’re all bedraggled by something and frankly many of us don’t feel at home in our divided country at times. The show isn’t overly political, but you’ll be hard pressed to not take the floor to march with Marianne for liberty, fraternity and equality. And you’ll probably find yourself wiping away a few tears when she strikes a pose familiar to all Americans and you hear some famous words. Bon Voyage will inspire you to laugh, relax you into believing that good is possible and remind you that even when we are just six people- we are stronger together.
The best compliment I can give any work is to say that I laughed, I cried, it gave me hope. Bon Voyage accomplished all of that with joi de vivre and for that I say a grateful merci to the company of Happenstance Theater.
Kari Liked: This show was such a jewel, such a reprieve and encouragement.
Kari Didn’t Like: I truly cannot think of a complaint or criticism.
Every year, Happenstance theater graces the Roundhouse Theatre with a new original production, and this time around that gem is Bon Voyage. This joy of a show follows 6 travelers on their way to Paris. It was charming and lighthearted and leaves the audience feeling inspired.
Eschewing their previous works, Bon Voyage is less about the theatrical skills (clowning, mime, stilt walking) and more about the narrative; each player is still given a chance to shine. It’s so hard to talk about without spoiling anything, but let me tell you, you will be delighted.
This show was a masterful work from a wonderful group of performers that I wish would adopt me.
RJ Liked: The joy and humor they impart every audience with
RJ Didn’t Like: How quickly it was over, 65 minutes is too little time to get to spend with these great guys this year
Bon Voyage! A Happenstance Escapade is open now through July 31st at Round House Theatre and it’s a marvelous show at a truly great venue. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.
All images (except family photo) by Dan Corey.
We were provided with complimentary media tickets in exchange for an honest review, however all opinions are our own.)