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Destroying the Light

March 10th, 2012 No comments

Went to Ensemble Theatre last night at Coventry to the Colombi New Plays Festival. I have to first say that I’ve never been in the school, which is disappointing because that is the school to which I thought I would be sending my daughter and son. But whomever closed it down, most likely to sell it off given it’s location. Instead, it sat empty and has slowly eked to life being variously a University Hospitals training facility, possibly a new site for the Music School Settlement, the location of Family Connections, and now Ensemble. The theater space is fantastic. It was set up in the round, almost, with one wall being the skene. Also, it’s location is fantastically close to all that is going on at Coventry: La Cave Du Vin, Winking Lizard, Grog Shop, etc.

There are three shows in the Colombi Festival, of which I went to see Destroying the Light by Sasha Thackaberry, whom I had met previously whilst wearing my work-a-day hat at the university down the road that laid me off. The play, directed by Peter Voinovich, is described as being a “modern reinvention of the myth of Persephone” and a “dark tale” that “explores Kora’s deeply personal fall to hell and her journey back from the brink.” Thackaberry definitely succeeds. Modernizing myths is at once popular and tricky. And I’m glad that Thackaberry gave a shout out to Joseph Campbell in her play. The trick in re-tellings is that so much that was attributed to gods now has to be attributed to the motives of man–in this case, woman, of course. In the myth Persephone (also known as Kore) is kidnapped and raped by Hades who takes her to hell. Demeter, Persphone’s mother, being quite pissed off about the whole thing refuses to allow crops (or anything) to grow until her daughter is returned–in effect kidnapping all of man and the gods. Hades, in the end, is forced to relinquish Persephone, but not before tricking her into eating a kernel from a pomegranate, thus forcing her to spends some months of the year in hell. This all is a partial explanation for the seasons of the year, especially winter and spring.

Thackaberry does a great job translating the essence of the myth into a human situation. For instance, there are varying ways that one could interpret the relationship between Demeter and Persephone, the route that Thackaberry goes is that of tension, rebellion, and hostility–which works. Kora (Rebecca Frick) is a young woman looking to become her own woman in the world. Clearly a precocious young woman, Kora has attempted many times to break out on her own only to have her oppressively attentive mother, Rita (Anne McEvoy) undermine her confidence and second-guess her all the way. The consequence is that Kora has taken to binge drinking, self-loathing, and increasingly reckless behavior. Through her father, Zackary (Bob McCoy), a talent agent, Kora meets Havier (Daniel Mcelhaney–who is a scene stealer in this piece) the lead singer of a rock band “Laudanum,” and the two agree to go on an epic bender to end themselves. This marks the terrific descent of Kora into the underworld of unending drugs, sex, traveling, etc. A dream for some a nightmare for others. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, at some point it would become exhausting. The question facing Kora is when this would happen and where she would be when it does. Given the mythic overtones, you can imaging where she ends up at the midpoint. The dark and heavy character of the play is balanced and broken up nicely by the use of three weird women–a combination of fates, furies, and Kora’s friends. They dance about, frame the story, lighten the mood, move the set pieces, and fill-in as various other characters throughout.

I’m not going to retell the entire play, to see how it all comes out you’ll have to go to Ensemble. Using the school provides ample parking and a convenient walk down the sidewalk to the side entrance. You can hit Coventry for a before show meal or check out Steve Presser’s Big Fun–and, of course, you can find a nice place for an after show drink.

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