Light Touch Lifts ‘Melancholy’ in SBC Theatre’s Spring Production

| February 17, 2009

It won’t do to judge Sweet Briar Theatre’s spring production, “Melancholy Play,” by its name – unless you take into account its subtitle, “A Contemporary Farce.”

Geoffrey Kershner directs the play by Sarah Ruhl, which will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 26-28 and 2:30 p.m. March 1 in the black box studio theater at the College’s Babcock Fine Arts Center. The March 1 matinee will be sign interpreted.

The story centers on the lovely Tilly, a deeply sensitive creature “overwhelmed with so much emotion that it draws her into a state of melancholy,” said Tania Salas Platt ’10, who plays the character.

Even spring flowers depress Tilly, because they will soon die. “She can’t hold on to it all, because everything is so fleeting,” Salas Platt said.

Her perpetual sadness makes her irresistible to those around her and indeed, each falls for her.

She is loved by Frank (John Nagy), her tailor, with whom she has a romantic relationship; her psychiatrist Lorenzo (David Zimmerman); her hairdresser Frances (Stephanie Jasper ’11); and Joan (Tiffany Marr ’11), a level-headed nurse who works in Lorenzo’s building. Joan and Frances are lovers.

These heretofore contented people living in a small Illinois town, embrace Tilly’s melancholy. Then, one day, she becomes irrepressibly happy, wreaking havoc on everyone, but none so much as Frances who is so distraught she turns into an almond.

Thus, Ruhl’s play is less sad than it is farcical and funny. The devolution from human to tasty tree nut, it turns out, is catching. As Tilly, Frank, Lorenzo and Joan – and eventually another character, Julian (Ralph Jaxtheimer), who has spent the foregoing scenes playing live cello music – try to rescue Frances from almond-dom, they are not sure if she has become human or they have become almonds.

“Did Frances come to us or did we come to Frances? Frances?” Tilly asks.

“I don’t know,” Frances says.

“Perhaps it’s best not to know,” Joan says.

Ruhl’s underlying message seems to be that being with those you love is more important, Marr, who plays Joan, said. Nor does the author take sides on whether it is better to be happy or sad.

“Tilly lives her emotions and that brings life to the other characters,” Marr said, whether it is her melancholy that makes them love her or her happiness bringing them down.

Other credits for the production include stage manager Sarah Jones ’11, set designer Krista Franco and SBC associate professor of theater Cheryl Warnock, who is providing technical direction and lighting design.

Tickets for “Melancholy Play” go on sale Feb. 16. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and $5 for students. SBC faculty, staff, students and children younger than 12 are admitted free.

Admission for the Feb. 26 performance is free for all students and all teachers. Seats are reserved. Call Ext. 6120 or e-mail boxoffice@sbc.edu for reserved seating. The box office opens one hour before show time for will-call reservations and walk-in ticket purchases.

Jennifer McManamay

Category: Performing Arts, Theatre Arts