PHOTO CREDIT: Lauren B Photography
L-R: Allison Witham, Joy Dolo, Alex Hathaway, Heather Bunch, Derek Lee Miller, Eric Marinus
EMILIE/EURYDICE – Created by Transatlantic Love Affair – Illusion Theater
Review by Bev Wolfe
I first saw the inventive ensemble movement work of Transatlantic Love Affair (TLA) when I attended the ensemble’s production of Ashland at the Minnesota Fringe Festival. In that production, I was virtually blown away by the movement the actors employed to convey the physical elements of life in the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. TLA’s latest production, Emilie/Eurydice, opened this last weekend at Illusion Theater. Isabel Nelson both conceived and directed this production. The program noted that this production was a result of a collaboration with Ivey Award-winning actor Sally Wingert for her 2014-15 McKnight Theater Artist Fellowship project.
The story concerns a young artist named Emile who has a great relationship with her father and a committed relationship with her live-in partner, Oliva. The show’s title also refers to Eurydice, a character in Greek mythology who died young, went to Hades and was almost brought back from the dead by her husband Orpheus. Like Eurydice, everything in Emile’s young life is suddenly cut short when she is struck by a car. For most of the play, Emile is in a coma and the show alternates between Emile’s interaction with hospital staff and the effect the coma has on both her father and Oliva. In between these reality scenes, there are fantasy scenes with the cast acting as a Greek chorus while Emile strives to break out of her coma and come back to the land of the living. The lingering question is whether, in contrast to Orpheus, Emile’s lover Oliva can succeed in bringing Emile out of her coma.
For those who have not seen a TLC production, the cast members use only their bodies and their voices to create the props and scenery for the show with synchronized detailed movements. The precision of their movement work is demonstrated by Heather Bunch as Emile, whose jerky stage movements represents the pulse of a ventilator’s breathing for the comatose Emile. Joy Dolo as Oliva does some excellent work imitating playing a cello and the entire cast effectively conveys multiple settings, including heavy congestive street traffic, a laundry mat, and a momentary peaceful moment in the park feeding the ducks.
Under Nelson’s direction, the ensemble’s detailed movement portraying hospital equipment, washing machines and vending machines is intriguing to watch, but I have to admit there were a few times where I could not determine what was being imitated. Much of the movement work was very inventive, but the overall effect was not quite as breathtaking as the work that I was first exposed to in Ashland. Also, the soap opera overtone of the story line was a drawback.
This ambitious production has the feel of a work-in-progress and is not TLA’s best work. But TLA fans will still enjoy viewing the precision of the movements, especially the scene in the park. For those unfamiliar with TLA, seeing its detailed movement work for the first time will be a treat despite the show’s drawbacks.
Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts, 8th Floor
528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
Box office: 612-339-4944 or www.illusiontheater.org
Remaining Performance Schedule
Thursday, November 12 @ 8 pm
Friday, November 13 @ 8 pm
Saturday, November 14 @ 8 pm
Sunday, November 15 @ 7 pm
Wednesday, November 18 @ 10am – Matinee
Thursday, November 19 @ 8 pm
Friday, November 20 @ 8 pm
Saturday, November 21 @ 8 pm – Closing