This weekend I saw Melancholy Play being put up by one of my favorite alma maters Holland Productions. And it was beautiful.
Simple, easy to watch, funny, heartfelt.
I have seen 3 Sarah Ruhl plays now. Eurydice, last season at NewRep, Dead Man's Cell Phone this fall at Lyric and now Melancholy. This was by far my favorite, and in my opinion the most successful production.
It is also the only one of her plays I have actually read. I really loved the script upon reading it, but thought to myself jeez there are so many places this could go wrong. Sarah Ruhl's work is always a bit surreal, very fluid, and subtle. So many places for poor choices...
But this Melancholy got it all right. It was, I think, very smartly directed by M. Bevin O'Gara. She took a very realistic and easy style-approach with the text and her actors. That style drew me into the world of the play so that I became part of this slightly unwound world, and accepted all that was lovely and quirky about it.
The acting too, was very well done. And this is usually the category I get really picky about. Clearly a very talented ensemble. Philana Mia's Tilly was truly delightful. She made the melancholy happy. She made me understand Sarah Ruhl's stage note that Melancholy is Bold, Sassy, and Sexy. She made being sad look like the most wonderful feeling in the world. Her castmates are no slouches either. They create the world of the play so that you can relax and be surrounded. They invited me in to their inner circle and it was a warm and loveable place to be. Ensemble acting at its best.
For me the set and lighting design and smart use of the troublesome Factory theatre space was the glue that bound it all toghether. It is whimsical, minimialist, and creative. Antique and homemade chandeliers hang from the ceiling, two rolling door frames create depth and interest and double as doors windows and mirrors, a lovely chaise lounge defines the sensual tone of the play and empty white window frames evoke a wistfulness that is palpable. The lights create the spaces and the moods as the play moves fluidly through its uninterrupted 90 minutes. Color washes catch in the chandeliers and give not only texture to the space but also emotion. This is where the plays solid direction and spot on acting came together to create this unidentified Illinois town where Melancholy is Happiness, Happiness is confusing, and almonds are not only a snack but also a lover, a friend, and a wandering soul.
Thanks to Holland for a great production, a lovely evening at the theatre, and for keeping the fringe scene in Boston moving forward. This is the New England Professional Premiere of Melancholy Play. See it Thursday Friday and Saturday evenings at the Factory Theatre - www.theatremania.com.