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Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 8:58 pm | Fair 49º


‘World of Extreme Happiness’ Actually a Tragedy

Katrina Cleave as Ming Ming and Lilian Young as Sunny in “The World of Extreme Happiness,” Feb. 16-25 at UCSB. Click to view larger
Katrina Cleave as Ming Ming and Lilian Young as Sunny in “The World of Extreme Happiness,” Feb. 16-25 at UCSB. (David Bazemore)

UCSB’s Department of Theater and Dance presents The World of Extreme Happiness, a play by faculty member and award-winning playwright Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, Feb. 16-25 in the Performing Arts Theater.

This tragedy about the complexities of human nature set in present-day China comes to life under the direction of Daniel Stein.

The story revolves around Sunny, who was unwanted from the moment she’s born, but determined to escape her life in rural China and forge a new identity in the city.

As naive as she is ambitious, Sunny views her new job in a grueling factory as a stepping-stone and attends self-help classes to improve her chances at securing a coveted office position.

When Sunny’s attempts to pull herself out of poverty lead to dire consequences, her bright outlook starts to unravel in a series of harrowing and darkly comic events, as she begins to question a system enriching itself by destroying its own people — and stand up against the power.

This fearless, satirical and humorous story, with its themes of the one-child policy and the hopelessness of poverty, continues to fascinate the audience with its untold opportunities, UCSB said.

Cowhig's work has been staged at the Royal Shakespeare Company, National Theatre of Great Britain, Manhattan
Theater Club, Goodman Theatre, and the József Katona Theater in Budapest.

Her plays have been awarded the Wasserstein Prize, the Yale Drama Series Award (selected by David Hare), an Edinburgh Fringe First Award, David A. Callichio Award and the Keene Prize for Literature.

She has held playwright residencies at Manhattan Theater Club and Marin Theater Company, and is currently under commission from South Coast Rep, the Goodman Theatre and the National Theatre.

Stein started his professional career with the French National Theatre and has been creating, directing and performing nonverbal and verbal plays, UCSB said.

Stein’s solo performances have toured in more than 30 countries, as well as in such theaters as the Kennedy Center and
Lincoln Center in the U.S.

He has taught master classes worldwide at institutions such as Juilliard School of Drama, New York, and The Institute of Dramatic Arts, Tokyo.

— Una Mladenovic for UCSB.


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