The Happiest Song Plays Last

  • Theater
  • Drama
Critics' pick
1/6
Photograph: Joan Marcus
The Happiest Song Plays Last
2/6
Photograph: Joan Marcus
The Happiest Song Plays Last
3/6
Photograph: Joan Marcus
The Happiest Song Plays Last
4/6
Photograph: Joan Marcus
The Happiest Song Plays Last
5/6
Photograph: Joan Marcus
The Happiest Song Plays Last
6/6
Photograph: Joan Marcus
The Happiest Song Plays Last

The Happiest Song Plays Last. Second Stage Theatre (see Off Broadway). By Quiara Alegría Hudes. Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 20mins. One intermission.

The Happiest Song Plays Last: In brief

With this look at a successful pair of Puerto Rican cousins, Quiara Alegría Hudes completes the stage trilogy that began with Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue and the 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner Water by the Spoonful. Ruben Santiago-Hudson directs for Second Stage.

The Happiest Song Plays Last: Theater review by David Cote

The program for Quiara Alegría Hudes’s final play in her Elliot trilogy, The Happiest Song Plays Last, doesn’t include a family tree. If you missed previous installments (such as last year’s Water by the Spoonful, also at Second Stage), you’ll need to know that Iraq War vet Elliot (the dynamite Armando Riesco) is cousin to Yaz (Lauren Vélez), and that the latter has bought the home where the former grew up. There’s a fair amount of familial (and community) history. But maybe we don’t need an Ortiz genealogical chart; Hudes implies that, in the end, everyone belongs to this teeming brood.

The action toggles between the Middle Eastern country of Jordan, where Elliot is a military adviser on a film, and Philadelphia, where Yaz finds herself courted by an older, sweet-talking music teacher (Tony Plana) as she tries to replant her Latino roots. Elliot takes up with an Arab-American film actor (frisky Annapurna Sriram) and finds his past dredged up by a kindly interpreter (Dariush Kashani). She brings up a number of moral and political issues—PTSD for soldiers, multi-ethnic self-identification and inner-city healthcare, to name a few—but she doesn't need villains or answers to engage our sympathies. As ever, Hudes’s writing is poetic but wry, full of swagger and poetry. There’s live music, but oh, how the lines sing too.—Theater review by David Cote

THE BOTTOM LINE: Hudes’s lost souls make peace with the past.

Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote

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