NEW YORK TIMES. JENNIFER DUNNING. PS122. 2001.
The bar is open and serving. Behind it leans a slatternly woman of no particular age. Her accent and the cadence of her speech are British. Her steely imperviousness reminds one of England's famously indomitable women. But the steel soon splinters in Wendy Houstoun's ''Happy Hour,'' performed on Saturday night as part of the UKinNY festival.
Charting a barmaid's slow descent into desperation one night at her job, ''Happy Hour'' takes a long time to make clear the promised connections between her life and ''the state of bitter England.''
But once Ms. Houstoun hits her stride, ''Happy Hour'' glints with her brilliance as an actor, writer and slithery-bodied dancer. She almost painfully evokes a slow and occasionally giddy capitulation to drunken, helpless loneliness by a character who rouses herself enough, as her slide continues, to hurl venom at a dreadful litany of targets that range from theme parks and ''kids with their noses in paper bags'' to ''New Labor's virtual reality.''
An even more dreadful clarity and calm take over as the barmaid announces wearily at the end that the bar is closing. ''Drink up, drink up,'' she says. ''I'm showing you the door.'' And out she walks through a door and into the corridor outside, disappearing in a world that is unimaginable because the world Ms. Houstoun has created is so complete.
Tim Etchells contributed additional text and direction.