(Charles Isherwood’s article appeared in the New York Times, 5/9.)
NEW HAVEN — The image we see when the curtain rises on “Happy Days” is as bizarre as it is bleak, even by the hardly cheery standards of the play’s author, Samuel Beckett. Winnie, the central character — really the only one — is immured in earth up to her waist. In the Yale Repertory Theaterproduction here, the Winnie who greets us after the ringing of the wake-up bell is none other than Dianne Wiest, the Oscar winner and onetime regular in Woody Allen movies who has recently returned to the stage, where her career began.
Ms. Wiest mostly makes a mouthwatering match for the role. Her still-girlish puff of a voice is perfect for Winnie’s indomitably chipper spirit as she spends her long hours babbling merrily, keeping up a bright sheen of optimism, expecting every day to be a happy day, in benign acceptance of her strange predicament. Ms. Wiest can also, of course, drop that voice to a husky growl, as she memorably did in Mr. Allen’s “Bullets Over Broadway.”She deftly uses this register when Winnie’s veneer of satisfaction occasionally, briefly, cracks open to reveal the loneliness and fear underneath.