Spoiler alert: The World of Extreme Happiness is anything but happy. Written by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, It takes place in China, starting in 1992 when a poor family is trying to have a boy (the husband is of course blaming the wife) and when a little girl is born and survives being through into a bucket of pig feed, they decide to keep her and name her Sunny (played by a very hopeful Jennifer Lim). Sunny grows up unwanted and unacknowledged while her brother is doted on (played the lovely and talented Telly Leung).
Sunny meets a fellow female janitor, Wang (played perkily by Sue Jin Song), who convinces her to come along with her to see Mr. Destiny – a self-help guru played vibrantly by Francis Jue. They meet him and he changes Sunny’s life. She is given the courage to speak up and get a promotion at work but eventually goes too far. She speaks out against her company at a conference that she’s been asked to speak at (they work at the infamous Foxcon) and is committed and given ECT, leaving her as a shell of her former self.
Yeah, The World of Extreme Happiness is actually Extremely Miserable. It was interesting to see what another culture was like and how miserable it can be to have self expression discouraged. The cast was great.
This is playing through March 29th at Manhattan Theatre Club. Check it out if you’re in need of a history lesson.