Review: Orpheus Descending (George Brown Theatre School)

George Brown Theatre School presents Tennessee Williams’ Orpheus Descending in Toronto’s Distillery District

The tragic Greek story of Orpheus and Eurydice has been told in many ways, from classic opera to Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. It is a story that has always hit a nerve with me because of its romance and ephemeralness.

In Tennessee’s Orpheus Descending, we’re transported not to Hades’ underworld but to a town of the deep South mired with toxic people. A handsome stranger, Val, breezes into the town’s convenience store and involves himself with other lonely outsiders.

George Brown Theatre School is filled with talented actors who are youthful and exuberant – a splendid marriage for this play about the longing to live and be free.

The play very much reflects the repression, conformity, ignorance and racism of the 1950s. All the actors did a great job with the Southern accents (and Lady Torrance’s Italian accent), helping to bring the atmosphere alive.

Curly-haired Edward Charette played Val Xavier, the snakeskin leather jacket-bound wanderer. He plays the guitar, singing “Heavenly Grass” with care. He does a great job straddling the line between outcast and lover. His Eurydice is Lady Torrance, played by Tennille Read. She delivers emotion with excellence.

All the actors in this production are very strong. I also enjoyed how Hannah Anderson plays little-girl-lost Carol Cutrere. Oh, and don’t get me started on the creepy clown that makes its debut late into the show, in one of the night’s best scenes.

The theatre in which this production runs is cozy but elegant. The set design by Jackie Chau is stunning and relies on wood, oaks, and warm glowing lanterns to evoke dark Southern charm.

Orpheus Descending is a weighty play, tragic almost to the point of comical. As in you just want to release a laugh because it’s so terribly sad. That’s Tennessee W., I guess. The characters are great studies in loneliness and its town is a microcosm of tragedies of our own lives.

I would definitely recommend seeing this production. Walk through the Distillery District and have a coffee or cookie in the theatre’s cafe, and watch a classic that will stay with you long after the curtains have closed.

Details

Orpheus Descending plays at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (55 Mill Street, Building 49) until April 21, 2012
– Shows run April 12 @ 7:30 p.m; Saturday April 14 @ 7:30 p.m; Wednesday April 18 @ 7:30 p.m; Friday April 20 @ 7:30 p.m; Saturday April 21 @ 1:30 p.m.
– Tickets are $14.50 for general admission, $8.50 for seniors and $3.50 for students
– Tickets are available at 416.866.8666 or online at www.youngcentre.ca

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