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BWW Reviews: PELLEAS AND MELISANDE Delivers a Modern and Artistic Masterpiece Now Through Nov 27

An artistic masterpiece in every way, Cutting Ball Theatre's modern interpretation of the classic, yet rarely staged, Pelleas and Melisande, conquers a small theater with feats of innovative staging and energetic acting. 

The story unfolds slowly and sometimes leaves audience members with questions. But it follows the forbidden romance of the title characters with increasing intensity. Melisande has married Pelleas' brother, the grandson of the king, but finds herself immediately attracted to the young Pelleas. The two lovers hold their emotions at bay as long as they can, leaving time for Melisande to give birth to a son and raise him for a few years before Pelleas and Melisande finally embrace - an embrace that leads to their doomed ending.

Pelleas and Melisande brings to mind classics such as Romeo and Juliet. One scene in particular in which Pelleas fondly holds Melisande's long hair that hangs out a window, seems to combine the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet with a much more romantic version of Rapunzel. The scene in Cutting Ball's production stands as one of the most memorable parts of the play, creatively choreographed with each actor lying on the ground - Melisande bending forward as if leaning out a window and Pelleas flat on his stomach as if climbing a wall to reach her. 

Much of the show requires the same physical stamina exemplified in the window scene. The slow motion staging and the compelling script make the actors' smaller arm and hand movements flow like a ballet. Movement takes huge precedence in the production, often reflecting the movement of water, which plays an essential part in the play.

Water, in fact, inspired the background music composed by Cliff Caruthers. The music relaxes the audience as it trickles and flows like a brook or a river. Yet, as it gives flow to scenes and transitions, Caruthers' music also adds to the tension of the play.

The stage, while small, also supports the story well. The audience sits on either side of a long, narrow platform that includes pop up benches and a pop up throne for the king. One side of the stage includes a small, rectangular pond that represents a lake. A cross-like shape filling the stage lights up in certain scenes, and one square on the corner of the stage lights up when an actor stands on it, acting as a colorful spotlight. Above the stage, a line of veils hangs, onto which videos of the ocean, a cave, candlelight, stained glass windows, stars and other images project to help create settings. The resulting effect is beyond words in beauty. 

Every aspect of Cutting Ball's production has modernity written on it. The costumes are modern, for the most part. A few servant characters wear more Medieval-looking clothes that don't fit with the contemporary clothes of the main characters. The director leaves it to the audience to imagine Melisande's ring, her long hair, the key to the main gate, and other props. Even the young son of Melisande is played by an adult (Jessica Jade Rudholm brings great childlike energy to the part).

The vibrancy of the cast makes it easy for the audience to forget the modern setting and clothing. With passion and zeal, characters draw onlookers into a fairy tale world. Girls could easily swoon over the handsome Joshua Schell, who plays Pelleas. Schell gives Romeo a good run for his money as he speaks his luscious lines of love and passion at Melisande's window. Paul Gerrior as the king seems to come straight out of a Shakespeare play with his wise and loving character who pities the young Melisande. Even the servant characters demand complete attention as they take on a role similar to a Greek chorus or similar to Shakespeare's characters, who often comment on the progress of events in a play. 

But the true highlight of the play, the one who makes it all worthwhile (as if the sets and staging weren't enough to convince you to attend), is Melisande herself. Caitlyn Louchard, with wide, innocent eyes, skillfully goes from the most playful moments, in which she acts like a happy young child in her prime, to the most serious moments, such as when her jealous husband grabs her by the hair and jerks her from side to side. Louchard fits Melisande perfectly. With so much intensity and energy in her performance, one wonders whether she can perform the part so many times over the next month. But her vigor is so convincing, it's not hard to believe that she has what it takes to perform with 110 percent effort at every performance.

With very few light-hearted moments, Pelleas and Melisande is a drama in every facet. The dialogue of Pelleas and Melisande flows like a Shakespeare play, but without the confusing rhyming and old language. Director Rob Melrose has created a powerful new translation of the original French script written by Nobel Prize winner Maurice Maeterlinck. By the end of the one hour and forty minute production (which has no intermission), a moment of silence seems more appropriate than applause, although the well-rounded cast deserves thunderous applause. If nothing else, it will move and inspire audiences. An ornate piece of artwork, Cutting Ball Theatre's production of Pelleas and Melisande leaves a lasting impression with its modern, artistic staging and direction.


Cutting Ball Theatre presents

Pelleas and Melisande

By Nobel Prize winner Maurice Maeterlinck

In a new translation by Rob Melrose. 

October 21 - November 27

At the Exit Theatre on Taylor Street 


PHOTO: Melisande (Caitlyn Louchard) lets her long hair fall out of the tower down to Pelleas (Joshua Schell) in Cutting Ball Theater's PELLEAS & MELISANDE. Photo by Annie Paladino. 

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From This Author Harmony Wheeler