By Patrick Christiano
March 12, 2012: The New York premiere of Eternal Equinox, a play set in the fall 1923, by Joyce Hokin Sachs based on two of Britain’s most important artists from the Bloomsburg Group opened at 59E59 Theaters. The drama directed by Kevin Cochran chronicles the erotic relationship of the two painters and the events surrounding a visit to their summer home by the handsome mountaineer George Mallory. The story is based on true events about the open sexual relationship of Vanessa, who was Virginia Woolf’s sister, and Duncan, who was considered controversial not only for his art, but also his active homosexuality.
The play about two bohemian artists from the 20th century group of intimate friends, know as the Bloomsbury Group, painters who were at the top of the artistic and intellectual circles of London influencing contemporary ideas of art, literature, feminism and sexual freedom, arrives in New York by way of the Grove Theater Center in Los Angeles. On a visit to Bell’s country home, the playwright discovered a letter from Duncan to George Mallory, who coined the phrase, “because it’s there,” gave her the inspiration for her play. The tale imagines a meeting of the three just before Mallory embarks on a fatal attempt of Mt. Everest.
Duncan Grant played by Michael Gabriel Goodfriend is a bisexual painter living in an open sexual relationship with the married Vanessa Bell played by Hollis McCarthy. They are spending the summer in the charming locality of Charleston in West Sussex, a country escape for them, where Duncan is having difficulty completing a series of paintings and Bell is struggling to hold onto her relationship. The action takes place at the equinox when “the world is held in the balance,” because both day and night are of equal duration. The alluring George Mallory, Grant’s former school chum played by Christian Pedersen now a famous mountain climber, surprises them with a visit and an invitation for Grant to document his third conquest of Mt. Everest. What unfolds is an appealing peak into their provocative triangle when the dashing George easily turns their world upside down.
The playwright’s script holds our interest with a look at a long gone period, but moments sometimes feel forced or inorganic. Chunks of exposition are thrust into the action detracting from the emotional impact of the story.
Director Kevin Cochran with a wonderful assist from David Darwin and Leonard Ogden on lights and sets has put together an excellent cast and creatively keeps the play efficiently oiled in the small theater. The actors for the most part are very good giving the audience an interesting, if sometimes overly theatrical look at these historical characters from a bygone era.
Eternal Equinox will run for a limited engagement through Saturday, March 31. The performance schedule at 59 East 59 Theaters, 59 E59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues is Tuesday – Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8:30pm; and Sunday at 3:30 pm. Tickets are $25 ($17.50 for 59E59 members) and can be purchased from Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or go to www.59e59.org.
Follow Us On Facebook