Theater Review: “Eternal Equinox” by Joyce Sachs, 59E59

Playing through March 31st, Eternal Equinox compares politics in relationships both creative and sexual. Vanessa Bell (Hollis McCarthy) and Duncan Grant (Michael Gabriel Goodfriend), two painters from the Bloomsbury groupr, spend the bulk of this full-length play trying to understand and negotiate their relationships with one another – particularly when others become involved.

Initially, it is Bell who is out of sorts, having discovered Grant in bed with a young man at a moment when she needed him most. Bell’s loneliness permeates the play, and McCarthy always allows it to lurk in her performance. It vacillates as she and Goodfriend trace through the motions of this twoswome – and once adventurer George Mallory (Christian Pedersen) shows up, as part of a changing constellation of unconventional lovers.

Mallory, good-looking and charming, has arrived to invite Grant (whose temperament bears out his profession) to climb Everest with him – and it’s not long before Bell – and the audience – begin to understand a rising sense of panic, the fear of abandonment. We see the terrifying abyss into which Bell stares as she contemplates the thought of Grant attempting such a treacherous climb – or of losing him in other ways. Determining to use Mallory as the model for Grant’s new painting, both “Bloomies” are surprised to find that it is ultimately and consistently Bell who lays the foundation for Grant’s success.

Watching Bell subsume her own ambitions for Grant’s sake is heart-wrenching. So is watching the juxtaposition of her multiple roles. Bell is passionate, supportive, insecure, jealous, and even occasionally manipulative – and watching her balance these traits makes for riveting theater.

The production values are strong, with Leonard Ogden’s set design evoking the shabby-chic calmness and calamity of English countryside living. Tracy Christensen’s costumes help bolster the 1923 vibe , particularly one of Bell’s longer dresses.

Well paced and easy to sit through, this production of Eternal Equinox is also a smart look at history and interpersonal relationships that leaves the viewer with plenty to think about after the performance.

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