Complex relationships, sexual politics and dynamic performances come together for a great night of theater in “Eternal Equinox” at the Grove Theater Center in Burbank.
The play is based on the Bloomsbury Group, an English collective of friends and relatives who lived, worked or studied near Bloomsbury in London during the first half of the 20th century. Their work deeply influenced all aspects of society, from literature and economics, to feminism and sexuality. The play focuses on two of the members specifically, painter and interior designer Vanessa Bell, sister to Victorian-era novelist Virginia Woolf, and her longtime companion painter Duncan Grant.
Duncan, who keeps his options open sexually, stays with Vanessa in a friendship/lover capacity. He is father to their daughter whom we never see, but is often mentioned. They are bohemians in the Victorian era. Their days are spent creating art, drinking and having long discussions on life. All is well with the couple until the arrival of a mutual ex-lover, George Mallory.
George was the first man to try climbing Mount Everest. But his true claim to fame is being the man who coined the phrase, “Because it’s there.” From the moment he shows up, you can see the wheels spinning in the eyes of the couple. And soon, they silently battle for his attention, all the while trying to remain respectful to one another. However, once George offers Duncan the opportunity to come along on his next attempt at Everest, the gloves come off.
“Eternal Equinox” was written by Joyce Sachs after doing a thesis on Woolf. The script is clever and rife with sexual tension and innuendo. It was directed by Kevin Cochran, who handled the task well. The space is limited in the Grove Theater Center, which was used efficiently, as the entire play takes place in one location.
The setting is Vanessa and Duncan’s summer retreat. And although the space was limited, it never hindered the play.
The production as a whole was professional, and featured wonderful work by the players. Gillian Doyle, Justin Ellis, Christopher McFarland and Matthew Scott Montgomery should be commended for taking on this spicy subject matter. Each role required comic timing and believable chemistry. Everyone delivered in spades.
The play ends as it begins, with Vanessa and Duncan together. The experience with George may have seemed like a test at first. And in many ways it was. But, in the end, it was more of a mirror being held up to their relationship. And in the reflection, they saw what they always knew to be true. That regardless of their pasts, and regardless of Duncan’s sexual escapades, it’s all about the love they share. And nothing, not even Mount Everest itself, can ever sever those bonds.
“Eternal Equinox” explores bedroom politics and the dynamics of a unique relationship. Couple that with a solid cast, costumes and a stage that take you back in time, and a script that is both fun and a little naughty, and you have the ingredients for a great night at the theater.
KYLE OSBORNE has been reviewing art and culture for three years.