The poetry of MELANCHOLY PLAY is present even before the dialogue begins. The set is its own character, suggestive of deep water, and shifting moods. Although the shape never changes, it has a fluidity that allows that actors to slip in and out smoothly, temporarily containing them like liquid in a blue glass bottle. Music flows through the scenes as well. It is so perfectly matched that one is aware of it, then absorbs it, then notices it again, in a rather hypnotic fashion.
Once the actors enter the stage, the language picks up the rhythm of the background and the story begins. Tilly (Samantha Simpson) isn’t just sad, she’s melancholy. Simpson’s Tilly is both languid and lively as she unintentionally captivates everyone in her orbit. She first encounters Lorenzo (Joshua Keiter) when she visits his office in hopes of shaking off her melancholy mood. Keiter has a lot of fun as the emotional, rabidly good-natured Lorenzo. As appealing as his happiness is, it is no match for the allure of her magnetic sadness.
As she goes through her daily routines, Tilly also crosses paths with Frank the tailor and Frances the hairdresser. Frank (Matthew Thompson) and Frances (Laura Watson) frequently weave their words together forming a chorus of two as each separately falls under Tilly’s sway. Thompson’s Frank is sweetly and awkwardly caught off guard by Tilly. He finds the humour in Frank that Frank wouldn’t see in himself. His counterpoint, Frances, is drawn in by the physicality of Tilly. Watson’s expressive face allows us to better appreciate the silkiness of Tilly’s hair and it’s inviting aroma. Even pragmatic nurse Joan (Maura McInerney) can’t resist the aura of melancholy. McInerney transitions from expressionless to blooming as she too is swept up in Tilly’s delicious mood.
And then happiness strikes. Despite the lyrical language and occasionally outrageous elements, the human interaction remains grounded and real. How does one cope with a friend whose new exuberant mood is depriving them all of that addictive melancholy? Without giving anything away, it’s safe to say that the resolution establishes the right mood. The satisfying conclusion also, finally, introduces us to Julian (the delightful Richard Maurer).
This is not an easy play to describe in terms that do it justice. MELANCHOLY PLAY could rightly be renamed WONDERFUL EVENING OF THEATER AT OLD ACADEMY. Thank you, director, Jane Jennings, for such an enjoyable production!
MELANCHOLY PLAY runs at Old Academy through January 29th.
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Anne enjoys writing unsolicited reviews.
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