“Chasing Happy:” A New Rom-Com Play for Post Pandemic Era

The play “Chasing Happy,” a romantic comedy about personal acceptance, love, and the pursuit of happiness, just opened a limited engagement run at the Pulse Theater on Theater Row on W. 42nd St on Oct. 11. It runs to November 11. Playwright Michel Wallerstein, a self admitted screwball comedy fan, calls this production “a love letter to Provincetown” and it contains plenty of offbeat humor, which we could all use more of in these troubled times.

| 10 Oct 2023 | 04:02

Let’s face it. These have been challenging years for so many. Loneliness, fear, illness, sadness and yes, reluctance to get back out and see shows. (Let alone raise money to put them on) So, why wouldn’t you head over to Theatre Row on W. 42nd St. to see “Chasing Happy?”

This five-character piece—which opened October 11—comes from the always creative Pulse Theatre Co. The playwright is Michel Wallerstein, who calls the show his “love letter to Provincetown,” where he spends much of his time. (As do many Manhattanites) Ultimately, he says, “this show is about personal identity, acceptance, love, and the pursuit of happiness.”

And it is about laughter. Audiences will find humor in unlikely places: characters craving each-others’ partners; another claiming George Clooney is pursuing her; and all wondering whether “settling down” is necessarily the best alternative. Wallerstein is a screwball comedy fan and that is the plan here.

The five person company of Chasing Happy stars Spencer Aste (“Wake Up,”Axis Theatre), Jenny Bennett (“City of Ladies,” Pulse Theatre), Schyler Conaway in his Off-Broadway debut, Christopher James Murray (“The Falling Season,” Theatre Row), and Antoinette LaVecchia (Broadway’s “Torch Song,” “A View From the Bridge”).

Wallestein acknowledges he relies heavily on director Alexa Kelly, who is also one of the founders of Pulse. “Ultimately, I’m just the playwright,” says Wallerstein. “Alexa has the overall vision, and she knows how to help us swallow the bitter pills of these times.” Kelly concurs: “This play is not about just loving the ones we’re born with, but being allowed to love the ones we choose.”

Speaking of choice, she says, “Pulse does plays that have meaningful messages, that have a mature woman featured, and hopefully, will engage the audience and uplift them.”

She insists that “Chasing Happy” is not about ignoring or forgetting the things we are burdened with, but rather about moving forward as best we can. “It is totally relatable,” she says. “It deals with getting older and finally pursuing your own path, without looking over your shoulder. It’s rather different for Pulse, being a romantic comedy, but still one with plenty of chaos.”

Her company was founded in 1989. Its most recent, production, also at Theatre Row, was called “Strings Attached.” It dealt with strangers on a train talking physics, and I recall being rather blown away. (This from a woman who was lucky to get a C in anything related to science) Pulse’s goal is a big one: “We aspire to be recognized as one of the foremost regional theatres in New York City,” says Kelly. Its proponents use words like magic, healing, and inspirational.

Words we could all use about now. And let’s now add “happy” to the list.