nytheatre.com review by Lynn Marie Macy
March 6, 2012
During the first half of the 20th century a group of intimate friends, dubbed the Bloomsbury Group, held sway in the literary, artistic and intellectual circles of London. Their work influenced contemporary ideas of art, literature, feminism, and sexual freedom.
In Joyce Hokin Sachs’ new play Eternal Equinox we are introduced to artists Vanessa Bell (the sister of author Virginia Woolf) and her live-in lover, Duncan Grant, a bisexual painter, in an open relationship with the married Bell. They are spending the summer living and working in the quaint environs of Charleston, the rural escape for the group. Grant is trying to complete a series of paintings and Bell is striving to keep her relationships from falling apart. The play takes place at the equinox when day and night are of equal duration when “the world is held in the balance.” Into their squabbles arrives George Mallory, the famous mountain climber and a former schoolmate of Grant. He has come to invite Grant to document his next conquest of Everest. What ensues is a slow seductive dance exposing the raw edges of their curious love triangle.
Director Kevin Cochran has assembled a sterling cast. Hollis McCarthy cuts sharply through the part of the moody Bell. Michael Gabriel Goodfriend as Grant makes a charmingly languid counterpoint to Bell’s high-strung neediness. Christian Pedersen hits all the right notes as the alluring adventurer who turns their relationship inside out.
Cochran effectively produces the isolated Charleston universe for the audience and keeps the play flowing smoothly on the small and somewhat confined stage.
Sachs’ script holds our attention and does give us a tantalizing glimpse into that distant world. However some of the minor incidents feel a little forced. For example an awkward “paint fight” between Grant and Mallory did not make much sense or develop organically out of the moment and the sudden bursts of exposition, which arise here and there, detract from the thrust of the story.
David Darwin and Leonard Ogden successfully pull together lights and settings representative of the couple’s artistic, eclectic enclave. The costumes by Tracy Christensen are simple and evocative of that bygone bohemian decade. Despite the few little flaws in the script, Eternal Equinox is a fascinating journey for those interested in this historical set of characters and a lovely distraction for anyone weary of our modern unrelenting high-tech world.