It seems consistent, no matter how far back you go in to the myth’s that man created to help themselves understand the word, that gods always were and will always be petty and cruel. In the case of the new play BLISS (OR EMILY POST IS DEAD) this sadly still proves to be true, as three out of the four women in the show are living out a life with some predestined events thanks to Apollo. Yet, thanks to playwright Jami Brandli, these Greek tragic heroines have the opportunity to change their fates in this entertaining comedy drama now playing at MOXIE Theatre through February 25th.
The classic Greek tragic heroines Clytemnestra, Medea, Antigone, and Cassandra find themselves eternally and unknowingly resurrected to repeat their fates. In this case, they are in 1960 New Jersey, as Clementine (Morgan Carberry) a bored housewife who is angry and vengeful towards her husband, Maddy (Lydia Lea Real) a wife and mother of two who is trying to live the “perfect” life with her husband, Antonia (Taylor Linekin) a high school girl who lives with her bitter and abusive Uncle after her Father and Mother died, and Cassandra (Alexandra Salde) as the colored employee of Clementine’s husband.
Only Cassandra, who is cursed to see the future knows what is coming and yearns for the opportunity to change her, and the others fates.
Apollo (a very funny Steve Froehlich) still comes down from Olympus to mock Cassandra’s pain, and assure her that the only way to break the curse is to persuade someone to believe her visions and change their actions which is impossible. For him, this curse is an amusing bit of fun as Cassandra is eternally doubted. A punishment he finds fitting since she rejected his sexual advances all those centuries ago.
Slade as Cassandra is canny and clever, as she tries to asses these women, and tries to empower them to rise above their current path and forge new (and less tragic) ones. As all are impacted by a male with power over their circumstances, this is also an encouragement to not let men dictate their fortunes. Her interactions with Apollo, the troublesome male in Cassandra’s life, show a more serious and determined side of Cassandra since she can speak freely of the importance of granting these women the freedom from their fates.
Carberry as Clementine is a funny, caustic, and bored housewife who alleviates her tedium by delivering “emerald angels” pills to her neighbors, flirting with her doctor (also played by Froehlich), and plotting revenge against her husband.
Lea Real as Maddy is a manic, ukulele playing, Emily Post worshiping housewife who adores her husband and strives for the perfect life for their family. Relocated by her husband from the islands, she is not as welcomed by her neighbors as she would like, regardless how many perfectly executed teas (minus the burned crumpets) she prepares. Her unraveling over the course of the play is highly funny and engaging.
Linekin, a high school senior at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, makes her debut as the abused girl that is willing to sacrifice herself for honor and love.
The play doesn’t require you to know the Greek myths exactly (there is a program synopsis to read beforehand) but it would benefit from the audience being a bit more aware of the details of the myths to fully see the parallels in story as they unfold. Because the playwright can’t be sure of the audience’s knowledge on the topics, the story can sometimes go between telling when exposition is needed, and showing when it is more convenient making it all feel a bit uneven.
Directed by MOXIE co-founder and former artistic director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, the play keeps the pace as crisp as possible so it builds with a feeling of inevitability. She maintains the right balance between Clementine’s sour boredom and Maddy’s building mania.
The set by Victoria Petrovich is a neon neighborhood of living rooms, each ladies domain (Antonia’s is her bedroom) that glow with the lighting by designer Christina J. Martin. The Costumes by Shelly Williams are gorgeous and time fitting, with Maddy’s beautiful clothes stealing the spotlight.
In the play one of Cassandra’s visions foretells a future where women are still struggling for equality and ownership of our bodies and our futures, free of interference from men. Sadly, this is one vision that still proves true and makes this show a fitting one for a year with the #Metoo movement and women’s marches still happening in a quest for those results.
BLISS (or EMILY POST IS DEAD) is playing at MOXIE THEATRE though February 25th. For show times and ticket information go to www.moxietheatre.com