Monday, April 18, 2011

TILL WE HAVE FACES • Mustard Seed Theatre

TILL WE HAVE FACES is a novel by C.S. Lewis that retells the myth of Cupid and Psyche.  There are variations of this myth, but (very) basically, it goes something like this:  The goddess Venus becomes jealous of Psyche's astounding mortal beauty.  She orders her son Cupid to fly to her and with the aid of his golden arrows, cause her to fall in love with a beast (or not to fall in love at all), but upon seeing her, Cupid falls in love with Psyche, and has her carried away to his palace.  Cupid visits her each night for a little, you know, but asks that she never try to see his face, or discover his true form.  After the prodding of Psyche's jealous sisters, who convince her that she may well have been sleeping with a monster, she does succeed in seeing his face one night, and discovers his identity and falls even more deeply in love with him.  In the process though, Cupid wakes up and sees that Psyche has defied his order, and banishes her from his palace.  Psyche seeks atonement and Venus gives her four impossible tasks that Psyche completes, and she and Cupid live happily ever after.

Now, in C.S. Lewis' novel, this tale is given a little twist -- it's told through the eyes of Orual, the oldest and ugliest sister of Psyche, and it's getting a cleverly directed adaptation by Deanna Jent at Mustard Seed Theatre.  At the outset, in the kingdom of Glome, we meet Queen Orual (Michelle Hand) who's got a little bone to pick with the gods.  She blames them for the woes of her life -- primarily the heartache of taking her half-sister Psyche away, and proceeds to narrate her story.  The Queen then sinks into the background as we're introduced to the young Orual (Sarah Cannon) and her sister Redival (Bess Moynihan).  Their father, the King of Glome (Robert A. Mitchell), who's really kind of an asshole, is not happy with the fact that his newly born child is a female.  But this child, Psyche (Rory Lipede), is absolutely beautiful.  Beautiful enough to incur the wrath of the gods, and is commanded to be sacrificed to the "Brute on the Mountain".  Orual is so devastated by the loss of her half-sister that she, with the heat of an obsessive, possessive love inside her, becomes determined to find Psyche.  Along with her learning to become quite capable with a sword, defying her tutor's advice, and a major fallout with sis, what also follows is, to me anyway, a telling of the pursuit of one's self.  Of beauty.  Of one's reality.  And of course, of love.  It's a deep play, dude…  A different perspective on universal truths.

Sarah Cannon (Young Orual), Michelle Hand (Queen Orual)
and Rory Lipede (Psyche).  Photo credit: John Lamb
The cast is exceptional, with Michelle Hand as Queen Orual and Sarah Cannon as the young Orual leading the way.  Hand commands the stage, and Cannon is fascinating to watch.  They both really lay it all out there.  Robert A. Mitchell is easy to loathe in the role of the King, and Bess Moynihan as Orual's other sister Redival is a real treat.  Rory Lipede as Psyche is radiant.  Gary Glasgow as Orual's tutor, "The Fox" is also a wonderful characterization along with Richard Lewis as the Priest of Ungit as well as Jill Ritter as the Priestess and Shaun Sheley as Orual's military leader BardiaDunsi Dai's multi-tiered set, with Deanna Jent and Kareem Deanes' atmospheric sound design and Michael Sullivan's thoughtful lighting design, come together to steer you in the direction of where and when everything's happening, without clumsily pointing it out to you.
With the inspiration of C.S. Lewis and the realization by Deanna Jent, there has obviously been much care in the crafting of this play, but if you're unfamiliar with the story, it might be a good idea to read a full synopsis of the myth of Cupid and Psyche -- just to give you some bearings first.  Just in case, there are some nice notes in the program to give you a little background.  It's very powerful though -- open to individual interpretation of what it ultimately means.  Check it out, and find out for yourself.


Written by C.S. Lewis
Adapted and directed by Deanna Jent 
Mustard Seed Theatre, 6800 Wydown Blvd.
through May 1 | tickets: $15 - $30
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm

Michelle Hand (Queen Orual), Sarah Cannon (Young Orual), Rory Lipede (Psyche), Bess Moynihan (Redival), Robert A. Mitchell (King), Jill Ritter (Priestess), Richard Lewis (Priest of Ungit), Gary Glasgow* (The Fox), Shaun Sheley* (Bardia), Leslie Wobbe (Lady Ansit), Jean Lang (Batta), Justin Leibrecht (Trunia/Servant) and Phillip Bettison (Argan/Soldier).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Scenic design by Dunsi Dai; costume design by Donna Northcutt; lighting design by Michael Sullivan; sound design by Deanna Jent & Kareem Deanes; stage manager, Lorraine LiCavoli.

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