Orpheus Descends on Royal Alex
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Orpheus Descends on Royal Alex

2006_01_11Orpheus2-1.jpg Last Sunday, Mirvish decided to take a break from its typical assortment of musicals and “plays” and the remount of an acclaimed Stratford production of Tennessee Williams’ Orpheus Descending opened at the Royal Alex. And it’s really good.
Orpheus is one of Williams’ bigger plays in every sense of the word, so the somewhat grandiose choice of venue makes sense. This show has three hours, three acts, a huge cast a large set and everything from voodoo dancing to Biblical revelation. Its story is that of Lady Torrance (Seana McKenna), a woman who manages her dying husband’s general store. Lady hires Valentine Xavier (Jonathan Goad), a handsome drifter with musical talent, to help her out in the store, and the two begin a love affair that has considerable consequences for themselves and their entire community. The story is modelled after the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, but it very much exists in Tennessee Williams’ Southern, erotic and frustrated world.
For all its grander themes and trappings, the strength of this play lies in the performances of its two leads, and in this case, both are superb. McKenna finds the perfect balance between her character’s pragmatism and diappointment and her yearning for new life. Likewise, Goad is irresistably appealing as Valentine, ably demonstrating the animal magnetism that attracts the passion of the women of the town, and the hatred of the men. Dana Green also has an impressive turn as self-proclaimed exhibitionist Carol Cutrere.
The performances are all solid in the cast, which is what you would expect from a Stratford remount, but the real joy of this show is its truly great story. And this production tells that story very well.