Wednesday, November 14, 2018

“Melancholy Play”: ‘A Contemporary Farce’ Where Playwright Sarah Ruhl, RULES


The list of Sarah Ruhl’s plays to her credit that are bold, surprising, thoughtful, magical, fanciful, farcical, off kilter, funny and poetic to mention a few have been sighted in San Diego over the years: “In The Next Room” or (The Vibrator Play”), “Dead Man’s Cell Phone”, “Eurydice”, “A Clean House”, “The Oldest Boy” and now on stage of InnerMIssion Productions an earlier 2002 work, “Melancholy Play” is making a San Diego premiere through Nov. 24th.

Is it really melancholy enough for anyone not on meds to stay away? I rather doubt it, unless you are Tilly (Hannah Logan) who is off her meds, and being melancholy is just part of her mental (questionable) makeup. “Cheerful people are the worst kind of people.”
Hannah Logan
Tilly and her melancholy moods thrive with her friends and acquaintances attention as they become in love, and in many ways, with her sadness. The deeper the melancholy the more they want to take care of her and the more they want to take care of her the more they love her. Seriously. Her inner and outer circle of friends and other lovers, love her in her state of melancholy, and not just in a platonic way. 

One has to wonder as well about those in her orbit that can fall so easily in love and so quickly (or so it seems) with someone as so well, eccentric.  There’s her therapist Lorenzo (Scott Striegel), who is rather confounded by Tilly. Striegel is pitch perfect as he weaves his own story into hers and continues to chide her for being off her meds. He then confesses he’s falling madly in love with her.

Then there’s Frank (Patrick Mayuyu) her tailor who falls in love with her and is rewarded in kind as she falls for him…that lasts until she falls out of her melancholia and he’s left with just the pin cushion around his wrist and sadness. Mayuyu shines in this role and as he grows as an actor he gets better and better.

Hannah Logan, Vanessa Dinning and Cristyn Chandler
Her hairdresser Frances (Cristyn Chandler beautifully acted) a physicist turned hairdresser falls for Tilly while cutting her hair is also in a dreamy world of euphoria and she too pictures herself with Tilly. When she brings Tilly home to meet to her girlfriend, Joan (Vanessa Dinning who plays a stunning viola) a nurse, well, do I have to spell that one out as well?

Director Carla Nell and her outstanding cast bring an emotional smorgasbord to the table with each of her characters carrying more than one in his/her basket of highs, lows, sorrows, happiness, pity, anger, acceptance, bewilderment, blues and almonds (oops) to the party. Sorry about the almonds but it kind of goes in with the category of 'farce'.

At the center of this emotional rollercoaster is Hannah Logan wonderfully fitting into Tilly’s DNA as the almost forever melancholy bank teller who’s tears everyone thinks are magical and whose proximity everyone adores and loves. And in an unexpected (unless you’ve read the script) turn about as fair play she becomes almost ecstatically happy.

It’s kind of a free wheeling pity party for those in Tilly’s world until Ruhl suddenly changes the equation and all bets are off when Frances looses her sense of smell and the story veers off into the fanciful of the almond where she turns into one (Amygdala: a roughly almond shaped mass of grey matter inside each cerebral hemisphere, involved with the experiencing of emotions”) and we end up with our heroine actually talking to the yup, almond and turning the tables one everyone. 

Patrick Mayuyu, Hannah Logan and Cristyn Chandler (behind frame)
Standing behind hanging blank picture frames set in a semi circle designed by Ron Logan (yes there is a connection) each character takes a place ready to step in and out from behind their frame to claim their piece of the story, and they do it convincingly in the 90 or so minutes it takes for the audience to get somewhat of a ‘picture’ (pardon the pun) of what and who they are.

Robert Malave’s lighting enhances the changing scenes to perfection. Carla Nell’s sound design along with Vanessa Dinning’s gripping viola playing adds a dimension that sends chills.  Kym Pappas’ costumes are more than fitting especially Patrick's Frank in pink shirt, suspenders and tie. I love it. 

Ron Logan's set washed in Robert Malave's soft lighting
For some up close and personal theatre, overall excellent acting and a rather odd duck of a play that you might not otherwise see, InnerMission Productions located in the Blackbox Space in back of Diversionary is the place to be these days.

See you at the theatre.


Dates: Through Nov. 24th
Organization: InnerMission Productions
Phone: 619-324-8970
Production Type: Farce
Where: 4545 Park Blvd. San Diego, CA 91226
Ticket Prices: $25.00
Web: innermissionproductions.org
Venue: Diversionary Black Box Theatre
Photo: Jim Carmody

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