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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 15, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 28
Melancholy Play a beautiful experience
Arts & Entertainment
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Melancholy Play a beautiful experience

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Melancholy Play: A Contemporary Farce
Freehold Theatre
Through July 31


STAGEright is one of those little theater companies that seem to constantly pop up here, with talented, committed, and energized company members intent on putting something on the stage that they feel strongly about. Their new production is Melancholy Play by Sarah Ruhl. We seem to be on a tiny Ruhl kick, since ACT Theatre will be opening her In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play in two weeks. But that's all to the good. Ruhl is a kick-ass playwright.

The enigmatic topic of this play is a reverie on the emotional state of melancholy. The first act revels in it, makes no apologies for it, and loves it. In fact, the first words of the play are a defense of melancholy, if one is inclined to revile or ignore it. The first few moments are a difficult introduction, as the bones of the play are laid, accompanied by a cellist (Rachel Beaver). But we are richly rewarded for sticking to it.

We are introduced to Tilly (Megan Tyrrell), who is melancholy. She is so melancholy that her bosses at the bank where she works have sent her for psychoanalysis with Lorenzo (Mike Jones). We're not sure that Lorenzo is really a psychiatrist of capacity, since we hear about his personal story of being left as a baby on the steps of a candy shop in an unspecified European town, where he learned an unspecified European language and now speaks English with an unspecified accent.

Lorenzo is so drawn to Tilly's melancholia that he falls in love with her, but Tilly is already infatuated with a bank customer who is a nearby tailor, Frank (Jordan Melin). Frank begins to return her affections, too.

Lorenzo stalks Tilly and is infuriated that she will not love him. Lorenzo is now thrown into a melancholy. Tilly seems to tolerate his love, though, agreeing to gift him with hair from a trim. When she goes to the salon, hairstylist Frances (Anna Townes) also is drawn to Tilly's melancholy, and becomes attracted to her.

Frances is in a relationship with Joan, a nurse (Jenn Owen), and feels so attracted to Tilly that she almost has to confess emotional cheating. Instead, Frances invites Tilly over and Joan also finds Tilly attractive, though more in a friendly kind of way.

Tilly now has a social network, and now that she is the sun everyone revolves around, she becomes happy. This disrupts her social network and causes Frank to fall out of love with her. But somehow, even that doesn't cause Tilly to regain her melancholy. Tilly's change of mood also causes Frances to become so melancholy that she turns into an almond. There's where the play might go totally off the rails for you, or maybe not.

This play is more to be experienced than followed logically. The language is as beautiful as the cello playing, which is quite lovely. Tyrrell makes the audience almost fall in love with her, too, as she is first sad and then joyously happy. Melin makes a masterful first impression at the opening monologue. Jones might tone it down just a tad, but he's amusing. Owen and Townes make a good Lesbian couple. And Beaver is a masterful cellist who finally gets some recognition at the end.

The second act doesn't really get anywhere in particular, with more improbable plot elements including 'saving' Frances from being an almond, but it's still fun to watch and listen to.

Lexi Clements Deschambault gets good work out of her cast and keeps to the spirit of the script very well. She might have intensified the actors' connection to the music by helping them respond more directly to it, rather than leaving the music only in the background. But overall, the music of the words is clear.

Melancholy Play is a strong presentation by this company. Even if you're feeling melancholy yourself, get off your couch and go see it.

STAGEright is performing at Freehold Theatre. For more information, go to www.seattlestageright.org or www.brownpapertickets.com/event/178876, or call 800-838-3006.

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