BWW Review: MELANCHOLY PLAY: A CHAMBER MUSICAL at Third Rail Repertory Theatre
A chamber musical (and, yes, that does mean a musical with chamber music) in praise of melancholy may seem like a strange choice for the holiday season. But Third Rail's current production of MELANCHOLY PLAY: A CHAMBER MUSICAL, by Sarah Ruhl and Todd Almond, is a surprisingly perfect complement the complicated emotions that come with this time of year.
In a world that's increasingly eager to categorize even most complex things into black and white, MELANCHOLY PLAY urges us to embrace the many shades in between. At the center of the play is Tilly, a bank teller given to bouts of melancholy, i.e., sadness combined with longing, which is not the same as depression, but which our society likes to treat as such. Like the sad women in many a famous painting, Tilly's melancholy is so devastatingly attractive that everyone in her life falls in love with her -- her tailor, her therapist, her hairdresser, her hairdresser's partner. Later, when Tilly finds happiness, those who love her have no idea what to do, other than fall into states of melancholy themselves.
Despite the title, MELANCHOLY PLAY is really about the many different ways we can find joy, and about how sadness is a necessary component of happiness. It encourages us to welcome nuance and to not be bound by the English language, which is grossly lacking when it comes to talking about complex emotions as compared to, say, Japanese, which Tilly notes has a word "for being sad in the springtime - a whole word for just being sad - about how pretty the flowers are and how soon they're going to die."
Also despite its title, MELANCHOLY PLAY is very funny. It's presented as a melodrama, which works because the fine cast (Leah Yorkston, Ithica Tell, Kerry Ryan, Nick Ferrucci, and Michael Hanna) is able to blend high theatricality with total relatability. No matter how out there things get (and in the second half, they get pretty out there), the actors are able to keep the show grounded.
So, if you're willing to take a risk on something a little different this holiday season, I highly recommend this weird and wonderful chamber musical about the beauty of sadness.
MELANCHOLY PLAY runs through December 22. More details and tickets here.