MR. HAPPINESS, at Cafe Voltaire. Like a lot of Mamet men--and Mamet himself--Mr. Happiness loves to gas wise. Unlike most of Mamet's talkers, however, Mr. H. doesn't use his gift for gab as a weapon the way, say, Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross uses his pretty talk to trick a man into buying swampland. Mr. Happiness just talks for the sake of talking. Which may be why Michael Shannon, who's bringing this one-man show to the stage, decided not to make him the 30s-style newspaperman writing an advice column Mamet conceived him to be (he originally wrote the piece as a companion to his radio play The Water Engine, set in the 30s.)
Shannon's Mr. Happiness is an inspired but crazy man dispensing Ann Landers-like advice to no one in particular while he shambles around his disorderly apartment, an interpretation that works amazingly well mostly because Shannon has a real gift for playing aggressive, articulate crazies of the Eric Bogosian variety. It's hard not to be a little frightened as he stalks the stage talking to no one in particular or focuses his intense, angry blue eyes on the air, spitting out his lines. Certainly the play--a mere trifle written to fill out an evening--would be nothing without him.