‘Eurydice’ and ‘Engaged’ are ‘E-ticket’ shows in San Diego
By Carol Davis
SAN DIEGO–Two shows worth seeing and scheduled to close this weekend (June 27th) are worthy of comment. One is a comedy/farce; the other is based on the Greek Tragedy Eurydice. The theatre companies offering these polar opposite productions are A Talent To aMuse Theatre Company (W.S. Gilbert’s “Engaged”) and Sarah Ruhl’s “Eurydice” presented by Moxie Theatre. Both are small local companies who continually to do excellent work.
Engaged by W.S. Gilbert, the other half of Arthur Sullivan of the famed Gilbert & Sullivan pair penned this (soap opera long before its time) farcical comic play in the late 1800’s. It is somewhat a variation on the same theme: Cheviot Hill (Sam Zethumer) is in love with love. In other words, he loves anything in skirts and has no problem pledging his love along with a promise of marriage to the first, second or third woman he comes in contact with.
The loves of his life are about as different from each as night is to day except for one thing, they all love his money. They include: Maggie Macfarlane (Sarah Hunter), a Scottish lass engaged to Angus Macalister (O.P. Hadlock) who is easily bought off by Cheviot; Belinda Treherne (Bernadette Ralphs), who is promised to Belvawaney (Reed Willard) but changes her mind for financial reasons and Minnie Symperson (Calandra Crane) daughter of Cheviot’s uncle Symperson (George Weinberg-Harter) who stands to inherit Cheviot’s fortune should he remain single is fittingly fidgety, fussy and flummoxed. (Of course if the money stays in the family, one does not object.)
Directed with a broad brush, Welton Jones does a fine job of keeping this three-act, two intermissions play moving along at a timely fashion; just about two hours long. Anything longer for this convoluted, satirical romp and the wiggles would have set in, since the outcome is as predictable as “If winter comes, can spring be far behind”?
On the acting front, Sam Zetumer is the perfect Cheviot Hill; conceited, in love with himself and perfectly satisfied that he has a right to do what ever it is he is doing. Keeping all three ‘engaged’ is no easy feat, somewhat like a juggling act, yet each of the women allows herself to used by Cheviot in one way or another. It’s the men who manage to show a little righteous indignation (not much) by showing off their anger and in one case, wielding a firearm.
On the outstanding list, Pamela Stompoly’s Victorian costumes are a beautiful sight and worn well by all. George Weinberg-Harter’s cartoon like set design fits the bill looking much like a Dr. Seuss backdrop. On the clever side, a miniature cardboard choo choo train limps along announcing the arrival of Cheviot and his uncle Symperson to Grena near the garden cottage (first act action) on the border between England and Scotland where we first meet some of the group. On the WOW side a genuine looking spinning wheel is used as a prop in Act I and on the accent side, the Scottish accents seem pretty authentic and consistent to me.
Overall, this seldom done farce is worth a try. You can catch it at Swedenborg Hall, 1531 Tyler St. in University Heights. For more information call 619-233-9407.
Death is so final, unless you’re a playwright. That said the passing of a parent could have a profound effect on a child no matter the age. In her 2000 play, (it premiered in 2003) Eurydice, Award winning playwright Sarah Rhul journeys through her own emotional seesaw after the loss of her father, by using the themes from the Greek Classic, Orpheus to parallel her journey with that of Eurydice’s and as a path toward her own healing. It is journey of love lost and found only to be lost again.
In a plot reversal the heroine, Eurydice is at the center of this story. It is told through her (a feminine perspective) eyes rather that Orpheus’, her musician/poet husband. In the original story Orpheus, who was said to cast a spell on everyone he meets including the Lord of the Dead, is allowed to rescue his beloved bride, Eurydice from Hades only to lose her again by not following directions: Don’t look back to see if she’s following, no matter what! You guessed it he looked back.
Set on Jennifer Brawn Gittings multi functional stage, the story of Eurydice (Jennifer Eve Thorn) unfolds as she is coaxed on her wedding day by the Lord Of the Underworld (Max Macke) to follow him to Hades. Still overcome by grief by the death of her father, her first love, (a father’s love is stopped by marriage on her wedding day) she agrees to follow.
There she meets up with her father (Todd Blakesley) who is waiting for her. He makes a place for her stay and together they reunite and begin the task of bonding again, getting to know one another again and building that father/daughter relationship again.
Blakesley turns out to be the gentle the caring parent she so misses. When Orpheus does finally make it down to the underworld to rescue his bride, it is she who calls back to her husband causing him to look back and she to remain behind with her father.
Ruhl’s piece is a playful (there is a Greek chorus of three stones in the forms of Fred Harlow as Big Stone, Rhona Gold as Loud Stone and Zoe Sonnenberg as Little Stone), warm and tender love story glimmering with hope, yet mindful of loss. Thorn is absolutely perfect as Eurydice. She is open, lively and simply glowing with optimism.
Visually, Gittings’ (costumes and set) set is eye catching especially the very large blue urn that is a working water falls set in a corner of the stage (raised on a platform) surrounded on two sides with blue tiles and working showers. Throughout the play the sound of water cascading down this urn becomes a living symbol of healing and calm.
Artistic director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg and her talented cast prove once again that theatre can be engaging, moving and powerful even if it’s the retelling of a Greek myth with a twist.
Moxie’s production of Rhul’s play appears to be the last utilizing the College area venue. Unfortunately for all, (unless the property owners have a change of heart) Moxie will be looking for another stage to mount their thoughtful and always clever productions.
Eurydice is a must-see show exactly as it being mounted by Moxie Theatre. It plays through June 27th.
See you at the theatre.
Theatre critic Davis is based in San Diego