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Eleemosynary

Cyrano’s Presents: 

Eleemosynary:

a strong example of well-produced theatre 

Runs March 30-April 22

 

By Jamie Newsom

According to Dorothea, the eldest of the three characters in Lee Blessing’s Eleemosynary, there’s no reason why a woman shouldn’t be able to fly.

Blessing’s play is being presented as a reprise of Cyrano’s Theatre Company’s first production in their 1992 opening season as part of their 20th anniversary celebration.

Flying. Flapping. Running. Searching. Spelling. Each of these are both literal and symbolic actions that run throughout the Blessing’s efficient 90-minute play. The presentation is minimalist, which only helps to highlight the characters’ complex struggles.

Directed with refreshing simplicity by Krista Schwarting, the play’s themes center around the multifaceted nature of human relationships and are allowed to quietly emerge without visual distraction. There are no superfluous props, which makes the ones on stage all the more meaningful.

Dorothea (Bernie Blaine), her daughter Artemis, or Artie, (Julie Sweum), and Artie’s daughter Echo (Denali Morgan) have difficult relationships with each other as well as internal conflicts about their own choices in life.

We hear their stories through dialogues between two characters at a time (rarely do all three interact with each other at once) and through monologues addressed to the audience. Under other circumstances this structure and alternating voice could be annoyingly gimmicky or confusing, but Blessing knew what he was doing with these devices and executed an unconventional play structure effectively.

We learn quickly that Dorothea has suffered a stroke. In a series of flashbacks and recounting of life’s episodes, each character tells her own story from her own perspective. We also get to see each of them interact with the others and understand where they’re coming from.

The action of the play is so efficient that there isn’t much plot to tell without spoiling the experience of watching the story unfold. This is definitely to the credit of the play and the production.

Dorothea is a mother. Artemis is a scientist. And Echo is a spelling bee champion. The characters each refer to their high expectations of themselves, and both Dorothea and Artie attempt to pass on their own hopes and dreams to the next generation, in different and intriguing ways.

Margret Hugi-Lewis’ set design is recognizable immediately as hers for it’s bold style and color-block pattern. The many yet muted colors are echoed in Lynn Murphy’s simple costume design. The women each wear a solid color top; Echo in an innocent lavender, Artie in fiery red, and Dorothea in a resigned shade of teal.

Despite the rather heavy subject matter, this play also has some funny moments, just at the right time to keep the tone in just the right place between lighthearted and morose.

Each actor in this production deserves praise. Veteran Anchorage actor Bernie Blaine gives consistently strong and intelligent performances, with no exception here. Anchorage newcomer Julie Sweum is marvelous as Artie, displaying a believable range of emotions from teenaged rage to adult acceptance of life’s realities. Denali Morgan, a high school freshman, holds her own with two accomplished actors. Although her youth and greenness show through a bit, she displays serious promise as an actor. I hope to see much more of both Sweum and Morgan on stage in the future.

There’s really nothing negative to say about this production. It’s heartfelt, entertaining, fast-paced and cleanly directed and acted. It’s wonderful to see all the elements that make up a play come together in such an elegant way.

Eleemosynary plays at Cyrano’s Theatre Company through April 22. Tickets available at www.myalaskacenter.com.


 

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