Emile/Eurydice by Transatlantic Love Affair performing at Illusion Theater

Heather Bunch, Derek Lee Miller and Alex Hathaway in Emile/Eurydice. Photo by Jonathon Carlson.

Heather Bunch, Derek Lee Miller and Alex Hathaway in Emile/Eurydice. Photo by Jonathon Carlson.

In many ways it is necessary for the sake of stability to take life’s routines and habits for granted. It is not until they are interrupted that the vitality of these rhythms are truly understood and appreciated. By exploring the emotional complexities and surreal uncertainty of a long, draining hospital stay, Transatlantic Love Affair’s original work Emilie/Eurydice (through November 21st at the Illusion Theater) poignantly and resonantly captures how the possibility of tragic loss lends new perspective and re-orders priorities.

Inspired by true events, the play tells the story of Emilie (a physically and emotionally expressive Heather Bunch), a New Yorker enjoying the blossoming of love with her partner Olivia (Joy Dolo) and holding a deep affection for her devoted, but preoccupied father David (Eric Marinus). When Emilie is sent into a coma by a traffic accident, both Olivia and David must determine how to move forward, and how to find new equilibrium with one another.

But Emilie/Eurydice does not only tell of what happens at and around Emilie’s hospital bed – it dives into Emilie’s own coma-riddled existence. A recognizable cacophony of hospital sounds and familiar voices echo in her brain as she fights to find consciousness. In these more abstract moments, the show delivers its most effective and transportive moments. The fact that this is achieved through Transatlantic Love Affair’s distinctive brand of performance, characterized by a sparse stage, actor performed sets, and almost entirely human-created diagetic sound effects, makes it all the more impressive.

While the show’s dialogue occasionally feels stilted, particularly in its prologue,Emilie/Eurydice benefits greatly from its expressive, but reserved lighting design (by Michael Wangen) and its score, an ethereal series of loops and layered strings played on stage by cellist Emily Dantuma (who also lends to other aspects of the soundscapes). These touches elevate the proceedings and serve as the show’s pulse, moving it forward with a sense of immediacy matched by its inventive and ever-moving choreography.

The cello proves to be an essential aspect of the play’s imagery and provides a fitting allusion to the mythology of Eurydice, who was wooed from death by the song of her lover Orpheus. Indeed, Emilie/Eurydice is undeniably a romance, pulling its emotion primarily from the fate of its central couple, but it is never pleading or overtly sentimental.

These many strengths elevate its performances, and despite an early lack of chemistry from its central couple that takes some time to develop, the central characters and their relationships are ultimately fully fleshed and believable. Particular kudos goes to Allison Witham, who in a peripheral role embodies the gentle care and encouragement so common to the nursing profession.

Minneapolis should be proud to boast original works such as this. Writer/director Isabel Nelson has delivered, in Emilie/Eurydice, a work characterized by a curiosity of the human experience that produces humble reflection on life’s messy complexities. It’s not without its flaws, but it is creative, moving, and achingly romantic. It is the kind of play that offers depth over audacity and is all too easy to overlook. And that would be a shame. Go see it.

David and Chelsea Berglund review movies at their site Movie Matrimony.

1 comment for “Emile/Eurydice by Transatlantic Love Affair performing at Illusion Theater

  1. David and Chelsea Berglund
    November 9, 2015 at 11:23 am

    It’s nice to see Transatlantic branching out and exploring other themes and stories; they were getting a touch “one note.” Twin Cities theater needs more ragamuffin companies like this. Bravo.

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