Escape From Happiness, Shattered Globe Theatre, at Victory Gardens Theater. Comedy has never been Shattered Globe's calling card--in the eight years since its inception, the company has concentrated on giving period dramas and classics a fresh spin. But judging by Escape From Happiness, comedy is one of its strong suits. Given the raw talent in this production alone, it's a wonder Shattered Globe doesn't deviate more often from its chosen path: this crack ensemble has the range and smarts to do just about anything.
George F. Walker's script--about a family of dysfunctional eccentrics doing their best to uphold law and order--offers the kind of roles actors usually drool over. And the uniformly excellent cast, filled with stage veterans and past Jeff award winners, attack their parts with a gusto that suggests they've rediscovered their craft. Louis Contey's vivid, visceral staging helps to draw out the best aspects of Walker's script, from its goofy dialogue, filled with non sequiturs, to its short, jagged bursts of cartoonish violence. Together Contey and his cast transform Walker's play into something far deeper than an actors' vehicle: here it's a grimy, gritty tale infused with the spirit of a Preston Sturges screwball comedy. This is black humor that isn't unhinged by its own viciousness, and that is in and of itself a revelation.