The next two weekends should be a theater lover’s dream, with Mount Desert High School’s excellent drama department offering two plays in repertory. First up, opening Friday, May 5, is “Eurydice.”
Directed by Frank Bachman, the play is based on the classic Greek myth about an uber-talented musician who gets permission from the gods to retrieve his dead wife, Eurydice, from the underworld. This contemporary version by Sarah Ruhl is both strange and beautiful.
The curtain will open again on Saturday, May 6, for director Chris Dougherty’s production of “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery.” Based on more classic material – in this instance Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” – it is also strange, but not so much beautiful as delightfully bonkers.
“I’ve wanted to do a Greek drama for years,” Bachman said of his choice of play. “Casey Rush [the drama department head] was thinking about adapting “Eurydice” for the one act, but it just didn’t survive the edits it would have needed. So was I thrilled to take it on.”
In addition to filling the bill for Bachman’s classics yen, this play will be the final starring vehicle for senior Mary Paola, who has been a force to be reckoned with on the Higgins-Demas stage for four years. Her career culminated last month in a State Drama Fest victory for MDI’s one act entry, “The Insanity of Mary Girard,” in which she also played the titular role.
In “Eurydice,” Paola’s commanding stage presence should compel audiences to join her on a dreamlike journey to Hades, where she not only forgets her adoring husband, Orpheus, (dreamily played by Dominic Marino) but who and what she is.
Heckled by a mean girl Greek chorus of Bonnie Snyder, Rosie Avila, Dezi Zaman and Irene Choi, and further tormented by a mean-spirited, scooter riding Lord of the Underworld, (unctuously played by Zack Uliano), Eurydice must decide whether she wants a second chance at life or the comfort of oblivion.
During a rehearsal last weekend, many references were made to light changes, projected images and music, which indicate that, like the one act show, this production will have some intriguing technical elements.
Over in the dance studio, Dougherty was rehearsing her “Baskerville” crew. While this play starts out rather straightforwardly with a lanky Holmes (studiously played by Eric Graves,) acquainting himself with a new murder, his partner in crime solving, Dr. Watson, a nicely dithery Ethan Leonard in bowler hat, looks as if he’s strayed from a Magritte painting.
As the game gets afoot, however, things gradually descend into mayhem as the rest of the cast, (Anna Redgate, Eli Price, Grace “Rawl” Blackett and Desmond Reifsnyder), is required to portray three to five different roles, in both past and present, not only making lightening quick costume alterations but donning new and outrageously over-the-top accents with each one. Each one of the actors seems to have a good handle on this quick-change business and, impressively, the accents. Reifsnyder, who starts out as a stuffy British peer, then morphs into a hysterical Italian, a giddy street urchin and several more incarnations, and threatens to steal the show with each one.
“I remember reading this script before it was published and thinking that it was great fun,” said Dougherty. “I liked the concept of deconstructing this famous story theatrically, and I’ve imagined it to be what the audience would be seeing in their heads if they were listening to the story on the radio.”
“I also liked the script because it presented our actors with multiple opportunities to play many different characters, requiring that they learn what an actor must do to make sure that each character is a distinct individual.”
Like Bachman, she said she also has given her tech crew, led by Gary Burkhart, free rein to fill the minimalist set with provocative effects that will include Foley sound moments and projections.
At that Sunday rehearsal, Dougherty reminded the actors to pause for the laughs, because there surely will be a lot of them with this madcap, murderous fun.
“Eurydice” opens on Friday, May 5, at 7 p.m., with additional performances on Sunday, May 7, at 2 p.m. and Saturday, May 13, at 7 p.m.
“Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” opens on Saturday, May 6, at 7 p.m., with additional performances on Friday, May 12, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 14, at 2 p.m.
Tickets, which cost $8 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens, will be available at the door.