The Transatlantic Love Affair troupe is regarded by many as the best Twin Cities theater based in imaginative stage movement. They often sell out at Fringe Festivals and Illusion Theater has fostered reprises of their work through their Lights UP! Series. Now you can see the fifth TLA at Illusion production, the world premiere of Emilie/Eurydice, conceived and directed by Isabel Nelson and created by the TLA ensemble. It is one of their best shows yet.
Ensemble members in TLA shows act not only human characters, but they can play hospital equipment, doors that open and close, birds chirping. This total environment approach is theater that becomes both storytelling and actual environments. TLA shows typically have no sets and no furniture. An actor may squat to connote sitting on a chair. Electronic sounds on a radio or at a street crossing may be emanated by the human voice.
The very touching Emily/Eurydice is about a lesbian couple, Emily and Olivia, whose lives are jolted when one of them is hit by a car and made comatose. Heather Bunch as the victim, Emily, gives a vibrant performance that makes the accident feel all the more tragic as she shifts into an unconscious state. Joy Dolo’s Olivia is the very picture of nurturance. Eric Marinus as David, Emily’s father, personifies desperation. Dolo and Marinus give wrenching performances that capture the agony of it all.
The wise Nelson doesn’t go for the obvious, which makes this piece all the more unique and beautiful. There is no subplot where Olivia is denied access to her partner. Nor does the fact that Olivia is black and Emilie’s father is white made an issue of. This supports the simple mythic timelessness of a story that uses Orpheus’s journey to the Underworld to bring back his lover, Eurydice. Mike Wangen’s evocative lighting enhances that idea to luminous effect.
The superb cast creates the environment of the piece brilliantly. Whether it is Alison Witham as an upbeat nurse, Natalie Remus as a dutiful doctor, Derek Lee Miller in multiple roles, or Alex Hathaway as an endearing barista.
Emily Dantuma’s mournfully lovely cello artistry deepens the mood perfectly.
Through Nov. 21
Illusion Theater at Cowles Center, 528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis