“The Happy Ones,” which was the winner of the Schmitt Award for Outstanding New Play, is a poignant, story in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. The play is set in suburban Orange County in 1975. Walter Wells feels he is the happiest man on earth, with a beautiful wife, two great kids and a home with a pool. His life is one of contentment, until fate strikes a devastating blow. A Vietnamese doctor—who has escaped as a refugee after the war and is dealing with his own deep sadness—slowly helps Wells find forgiveness and hope and in this uplifting—and surprisingly funny—play.
Performing in “The Happy Ones” are Gabriel Frey, cast as Walter Wells; Tony Banthutham, as Bao Ngo; Fred Ireland, as Gary Stuart, the Unitarian minister; and Shannon Emery plays the comedic role of divorcee Mary-Ellen Hughes, who is new to the neighborhood. This is Tony Banthutham first time on stage. Behind-the-scenes, Jan Bradley stage-manages the production, and Ben Casas and Alan Schneider run sound and lights.
Fred is Happy to be in the Happy Ones and working with a great cast. He believes this is an exceptional play. Fred was In Marine Corps when Saigon was falling and helped deal with all the refugees in Guam in the summer of 1975 before they came to the USA. He believes you will truly enjoy this performance.
Gabe is delighted to once again be performing with Upstage Napa Valley, he was last seen earlier this year in the role of Dennis in the noir stamp thriller Mauritius. Some of his previous productions with Upstage include the roles of Josh in Handle with Care, as George in The Language Archive and as Leo Joseph-Connell in the drama 4000 Miles. He would like to thank his fantastic cast and crew for their tireless effort bringing this story to life and to everyone in attendance for their support of local theatre. And to his amazing wife Lisa for her unrivaled love and support!
Fanatical about theater, Shannon Emery has been an active participate both on stage and off. She has enjoyed roles as varied as Lizzie Borden in Blood Relations, Laura in The Glass Menagerie, Alice in You Can’t Take It With You and Bottle Dancer #1 in Fiddler On The Roof. From directing to producing, standup to improv, musicals to dramas, Shannon has dabbled in it all and is excited to be back on the boards with UNV. She appreciates the very warm welcome!
Tony is delighted to be making his debut with Upstage Napa Valley. As a native of Thailand, the role of Bao appealed to him because it highlights a significant period of postwar US-South East Asia relations and the socio-cultural sacrifices many refugees had to make. When not stretching his thespian muscles, Tony invites you to tour the Villa Ca’ Toga or visit him at the Ca’ Toga Art Gallery in Calistoga where he is a partner and manager.
Julia Marie Myatt’s play “The Happy Ones”, pierced my heart when I read it. Myatt created her main character, Walter Wells, from the images in a photo collection by Bill Owens of 1976 Suburbia in Orange County. For her play, Julie researched what was happening during that year and chose to focus on the end of the Vietnam War and the exodus to California of 250,000 educated, upper-class Vietnamese refugees. From these refugees, she unearthed Bao Ngo, a Vietnamese doctor forced to leave his country and begin a new life. In contrast, Walter Wells is comfortably living the American Dream in Orange County and then…tragedy strikes. The play is about these two men and how their lives crossed.
At our first meeting the actors and I shared how we related to these characters. Fred Ireland (cast as Gary, the Unitarian preacher) shared that he considered becoming a man of the cloth after his tour as a Marine in Vietnam. At that time, he was stationed in Guam, helping assimilate the first wave of the vast immigration of Vietnamese to Camp Pendleton.
Tony Banthutham, who is new to acting, plays Bao. Tony, born in Thailand, shares similar life experiences with his character Bao; both of them are Asian immigrants in the United States.
As we rehearse night after night we discover more about these characters and work tirelessly to create subtle nuances to bring you an authentic experience on stage of their loss, joy, and forgiveness.