Posts Tagged ‘Nelms McKalvain’

Audience Tears Flowed for ‘Eurydice’

Monday, January 24th, 2011

(from L) Nelms McKalvain and Howard Shangraw and friend converse after the show.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

At the final bow, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Some of the audience members were loudly blowing their noses. One woman clasped her had over her mouth to keep from sobbing.

“Really? People were crying? I couldn’t tell,” said Juwan, who played Orpheus, after the show.

However, you could tell that he was impressed. Any time a high school theater cast brings an audience to tears is an accomplishment.

The final show of “Eurydice,” a modern take on the Greek tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice, by Sarah Ruhl, was held on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m at Idyllwild Arts Academy.

“I think it was our best show,” said Juwan, after striking the set. “Everything seemed to gel together.”

You didn’t have to know anything about Greek mythology to appreciate and understand the play. It’s been done hundreds, if not thousands, of times. But Sarah Ruhl made it more interesting and palatable.

“I’m glad that it was set in the 21st century,” said one student.

Brooke, a senior who played “Eurydice,” brought Nelms, a piano teacher at Idyllwild Arts, to tears. He stood out in the courtyard with huge tears rolling down his face. Everyone around him smiled. It was rare to see such open emotion from a middle-aged man.

“Brooke just broke my heart,” Nelms said.

Brooke was the happy-go-lucky pretty thing that was in love with Juwan. As a musician, he listened to the “beat of a different drummer.” She loved words, and he loved music. Somewhere in between, they connected.

“There was a lot of kissing going on at the beginning,” exclaimed Juwan’s mom, who came all the way from Kansas, to surprise him.

“I’m glad that Juwan finally got a lead role,” another student said.

Juwan played the heartbroken Orpheus

Juwan played Orpheus, the heartbroken bride groom, to the hilt. He sent music, and wrote letters, to the Underworld, and delivered them via worms. He told his bride of his dreams, in which her hair was made out of faucets. It only made everyone cry harder.

“Please come back!” he begged.

In one of his scenes, he’s talking to a telephone operator. He’s trying to connect to Eurydice in the Underworld. The operator on the other end is confused and exasperated.

“This is a special case,” Juwan tells her. “She’s dead.”

How can he connect to a dead woman?┬áThe audience cries harder. Somehow they’ve been there before. Asking an operator for help beyond reason.

When Juwan first saw Sarah Ruhl’s play, he thought it was a kind of dumb. Then he listened to Howard, and drew from his own experiences of heartache, to play a believable role.

Brooke (as Eurydice) might have broken Nelms’ heart with her letters home.

“Don’t try and find me again,” Brooke wrote after they flubbed up the voyage back. She called out his name and he looked back, so that was it.

“I’m sorry,” she wrote to Orpheus. “I was afraid. But don’t come looking for me again.”

In her open letter to her husband’s next wife, Brooke demonstrated her emotional range.

“Be sure and feed him often, because he forgets to eat,” she recited out loud. “And be sure and notice that he blushes pink when you kiss him. If you kiss his forehead, I will thank you for it.”

What woman would want her husband to be happy with another woman? Eurydice had matured while underground.

Everyone expected Joe Spano to steal the show. After all, how can high school theater students measure up to a professional actor with an Emmy nod and many successful shows under his belt?

Stones Dylan and Angela pose for pictures after the show

“He was great, but he didn’t steal the show,” said some theater students.

It wasn’t a slight. What Joe Spano did was elevate “Eurydice” to the next level. Everyone stepped up their game. Because they already had it in them.

Brooke, Juwan, Jake, and the Stones were just as good as Joe. And that’s the way it should be.

He was fun to watch, no doubt. Especially when his daughter was adjusting to being dead. He built her a makeshift room out of string that he tied to umbrella handles hanging from the ceiling.

“That was the saddest part,” said Chris, a music major who saw the show on Friday night.

For others, Joe’s saddest moment was when Eurydice left to follow Orpheus home and said, “With her gone, it’ll be like a second death to me.”

Jake, who played an “Interesting Man,” (who must’ve said “interesting 100 times) was really just a letch, who lured Eurydice to her death.

By the way, Brooke’s slow-motion fall was eerie, but effective. Kudos to Howard Shangraw, the director, and the set designers for making it happen with lights and poles.

I’m not sure why Ruhl created the Lord of the Underworld (also played by Jake) as a pre-teen, but it took away some of his bite. Running around on a trike with oversized shoes and a lit-up umbrella hat was entertaining, but typically, I like my demons older. His youth made it hard to take him seriously.

But, in the end, little Lord Fontleroy on the trike, had the final say.

“I just got chills all over,” said Chris Pennock, an Idyllwild actor best known for his “Dark Shadows” days.

His wife was the one who covered her mouth to keep from sobbing.

“It was so amazing,” she said, wiping away her tears.

Joe Spano (partially obstructed) and his daughter, Liana, a stone, talk with audience members after the show

Outside, Idyllwild residents took pictures Joe Spano and the other actors. It was nice having a celebrity amongst them.

“We grew up watching Joe Spano on ‘Hill Street Blues,”” one resident said. “It was nice to see him live on stage today.”

Spano, who played Eurydice’s father, and his real-life daughter, Liana, played a stone that guarded the Underworld.

“This was the best experience,” said Milan, who was Spano’s understudy. “He improved my acting performance by a mile.”

“Eurydice” played to packed houses on Friday and Saturday nights, Jan. 21 and 22. The Sunday, Jan. 23rd audience stood on their feet to show their appreciation. On Apella Drive, the road out, past the parking lot, a few women were walking home. What a testament to the show! Without a car, they arrived on foot rather than miss the show.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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