“Happy Armenians” had its world premiere Oct. 2 at the NoHo Arts Center. Aram Kouyoumdjian both wrote and directed the play, produced in collaboration with Vista Players.
Kouyoumdjian’s production brings awareness to the oppression and persecution that the Armenians experienced in 1915-1917.
“I knew I wanted to write a theater piece that somehow responded to the genocide without being a ‘genocide play,’” Kouyoumdjian said.
The play takes place in an alternate version of history, where Armenia is the most powerful reigning empire. In this parallel universe, Europe is one of the poorest continents, Africa is wealthy, Native Americans inhabit North America and the Aztecs still exist.
The story revolves around the king of Armenia, who only has 30 days to live. To take over the reign, he brings his successor Levon through time travel. With the help of his advisers, Levon uses his knowledge of current history to help him resolve the problems in the parallel version.
Although the cast consists of only five performers, they did a brilliant job. The actors have great chemistry on stage, which makes for a cohesive and satisfying performance. They are all talented and articulate. The cast flawlessly transports audiences to their world.
Some actors worth noting are Daniel Hubbard, as Levon, and Travis Baker, as Patrick, who have great comedic timing, keeping the play fresh and exciting.
In addition to the small cast, the lighting and sets were also clean and straightforward.
The play takes place in one room with two thrones for the king and queen and a couch in the center.
Because the setting is in an alternate universe, the simplicity fits the play well. The lights would change to differentiate the transition between scenes and there is pre-recorded music playing throughout the transitions.
The costumes and makeup mimic the simplicity of the rest of the production. In the play, the king’s advisers, Siran and Patrick, seem to have more futuristic clothing; whereas the king and queen have a more traditional costumes. This slight clash does not take away from the overall essence of the play.
Overall “Happy Armenians” is captivating and sympathizes with the Armenian genocide in a way that hasn’t been done before.
The final scene is an emotional moment, where Levon is recalling his past and his participation in Armenian genocide marches. Levon states that by participating in the march, he urges Armenians to continue surviving.
The play closes with a traditional Armenian folk song; paying homage to the genocide. This touching moment brought the audience to a standing ovation.
Kouyoumdjian’s production touched on a variety of global issues and the actors were able to bring Kouyoumdjian’s world to life effortlessly.
“Happy Armenians” is a must-see and will be showing through the entire month of October at the NoHo Arts Center 11136 Magnolia Blvd. North Hollywood. The 90-minute show does not have an intermission and there is no late seating. Make sure you arrive early and allow time for parking.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.itsmyseat.com/happy/.