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Happiness is an Inside Job

Feb. 5, 2023

by Luba Nikolayev, text and images

Walking into the San Miguel Playhouse, the stage setting, with its mismatched furniture, made me feel like I was back in my parents' 1990s living room, homie and comforting.

It was Sunday afternoon and my fellow Canadian Brian Munroe, also recently arrived in San Miguel, was directing Norm Foster's play, The Long Weekend, A Comedy of Bad Manners. The first to take the stage, he enthusiastically introduced the comedy, the Playhouse's first post Covid. I'd forgotten how much I loved to watch live theater, and as the lights dimmed, I felt a familiar dash of excitement run through my body.

The play is about two mismatched married couples who can't pretend to love, or even like, each other, over the two longest weekends of their lives. One joke rolling off after another, the audience in stitches over the hilarity, I wondered how the cast didn't burst out into laughter as they performed their overly dramatic parts. The characters were both ridiculous, endearing and irritating all at once, offering the audience a mixed bag of emotions. [Editor's note: see Fredric Dannen's synopsis below.]

My biggest take-away was the reminder that, no matter how many times you try, you cannot run away from your problems. For me there has often been a blurry line between running away and following your heart's call onward to a new life. Like the time I bought a one way ticket to Central America only a few days after I got dumped. The journey was life changing. Even though it felt like I was running away, it was an away on which I got to process my feelings, a ten-month trip with only me and my backpack.

I guess the difference between running away and processing feelings is that running away is a reaction of fight-or-flight, and processing feelings is rooted in worked-though emotions that are felt and not abandoned on the side of the road. Still, the two can feel very similar, especially in the beginning when emotions running high take over our more sensible mind.

The need to break free and escape can be overwhelming. Those are the times that I try to remind myself to breathe deeply and not to act immediately, out of anger. If I choose to run I know my problems will pursue. They will hunt me down until I look them straight in the eye and tell them, "I see you. I hear you. I know you're here to teach me how to be an even better version of myself, a version that I haven't met yet."

What was the case in our recent move to San Miguel? Did I try to run away from my problems?

My marriage was shaky in Costa Rica. My husband, Jordan, was frustrated with the general lack of responsibility that characterizes that country, the poor work ethic. He was angry, irritable and needed a change. So we moved here about a month ago in hopes that the new environment would help solve our problems. Now that we are here Jordan is more present with the family. But can still be reactive, which again points us to the obvious fact that happiness is an inside job.

For me leaving my friends and pristine jungle life has been difficult. I'm trying to find new motivation to enjoy life. In some ways I feel I've succeeded, but sometimes I wake up in the morning longing for the delicious spring water that was ours in Costa Rica, the lush greenery, the abundance of the rivers that run into the ocean and my circle of women that always cradled me. Now I have to discover my own inside job, to work through, to let that go and be present in this new, exciting scene.

Walking away from the theater last Sunday I felt lighter, wiser, as if I had a long abdominal workout from all the laughing. I hope you can experience The Long Weekend for yourself. I know you will enjoy it.

There are still a few tickets left for the last shows this weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I promise, you won't be disappointed.


In Norm Foster's hit comedy of bad manners, high-powered lawyer Max Trueman and his psychologist wife, Wynn, invite another married couple, Abby and Roger, to their summer home for a quiet weekend in the country. It proves to be anything but. Over the course of about an hour and fifty minutes, during which audiences are typically laughing almost continuously, the foursome tells one too many uncomfortable truths about one another. Soon all the gloves come off – along with other items of clothing, as the married couples go after each other's spouses in a game of mixed doubles that has nothing to do with Max's private tennis court.

Norm Foster, called the Neil Simon of Canada, is the most produced playwright in his country's history, and his plays export well; the Los Angeles Times, reviewing a California production of The Long Weekend, concluded: “Norm Foster scores a bullseye with this tickling romp about mismatched spouses.”

This full production, with sets and costumes, is directed by Brian Munroe, a Canadian theater professional who just recently moved to San Miguel. His talented cast members are Gerri Baruch, Christopher Berns, Clara Dunham, and Eli Hans.

- Fredric Dannen

tickets: Boleto City


Luba Nikolayev is a mother, dancer and writer, who is reimagining herself in San Miguel after her recent arrival here from the jungle of Costa Rica. She has travelled to over 40 countries, learning about different cultures and what unites us all. Through her partnership with Lokkal she hopes to encourage readers to explore their brilliance with a playful and curious outlook.


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