Kayla Boye, a white woman with dark hair piled on her head, sits at a table in a black slip dress and a pearl necklace. She holds a pair of horn-rimmed glasses in one hand and what appears to be an orange toothbrush in the other. A black plastic garbage bag is on the table in front of her, and a series of lights dangle behind her.
Kayla Boye in Happy Days at KB Productions Credit: Kachi Mozie

Dame Peggy Ashcroft considered the role of Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s notoriously difficult Happy Days a “summit part,” one of those roles, like Hamlet or King Lear, that tests an actor’s mettle and proves her alpha status in the pack. (Ashcroft played Winnie in a 1975 production at the Old Vic Theatre in London.) Chicago actor Kayla Boye clearly feels the same; she both stars in KB Productions’s current revival and is its producer. Happily, Boye is equal to the task of playing a character in yet another Beckett play in which, as in his seminal Waiting for Godot, nothing happens—twice. As Winnie, Boye never leaves the stage; she is, in fact, the only actor on stage, and virtually unable to move, buried up to her ribcage in the first act, up to her neck in the second.

Happy Days Through 4/2: Fri-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM, City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr, https://happydayschi.com/tickets, $30

Still, Boye, a lively actor with a wide range, captures us the moment the lights come up and captivates us from that point on. She chatters on and on, as Winnie does, on all of Beckett’s pet topics: exhaustion, decay, loneliness, our sad mortality, life’s petty pace, and the death of God. Somehow Beckett, ever the black Irishman, finds the laughter in the dark. As does Boye, who proves in two short hours she is a tragicomic force to be reckoned with. Hats off, too, to director/production designer Jon Dambacher for his seamless direction and for his inspired set.