How It’s New York: The production, by Grove Theater Center, LA is running at 59E59 on… East 59th St. in Manhattan.
How It’s Irish: The sexual repression. No, sorry, wrong play. This story of 1920’s swingers is, however, set across The Irish Sea in England. George Mallory, one of the characters, was Irish-American.
Orla O’Sullivan finds a play about the Bloomsbury Group unerotic, despite her observation that “the phallically described Everest (“a huge, colossal white fang”) becomes a metaphor for sexual conquest…”
Everything about Eternal Equinox tells the audience that this is an erotically charged environment, from discarded clothing to frequent bum-slapping and frontal nudity. Yet the charge is not felt, even though the play is based on a true story. (Besides questions over casting/direction there were niggling implausibilities, such as a hard-drinking character remembering in vivid detail a meal eaten 20 years before).
Vanessa Bell (Hollis McCarthy) is married but lives mostly with Duncan Grant (Michael Gabriel Goodkind), another artist, seemingly bi-sexual and the father of one of one of her children. Bell and Grant were both members of The Bloomsbury Group, an absentee collection of luminaries, including Bell’s real-life sister the author Virginia Woolf.
The play by Joyce Sachs, directed by Kevin Cochran (co-founder of the Grove Theater Center), takes its fictional departure from imagining an unexpected visit after many years by one of the Bloomsbury set to the country home of Vanessa and Duncan. The arrival of gorgeous adverturer George Mallory (Christian Pedersen), supposedly a past lover of both, strains to break point their long, domestic partnership.
It’s the morning after the party. Vanessa fears growing old alone, she tells Duncan, who absented himself from her 45th birthday with a male lover. He partly attributes his misbehavior to the equinox—a time when night and day are equal, or “life hangs in the balance,” as she sarcastically observes.
The universal, human pull between security and passion is doubled when one’s relationship options are, the play suggests. George’s arrival shows the men drawn as much to Virginia as each other (albeit the heterosexuality was far less convincing).
George is off—again—to climb Mount Everest. This decision, fatal in reality, is foreshadowed by the play. George tries to get Duncan to come with him. Vanessa is appalled.
The phallically described Everest (“a huge, colossal white fang”) becomes a metaphor for sexual conquest. Unquenchable, George leaves “to slay his dragon”. This after bedding Virginia. She relays all to Duncan over breakfast. To this, they effectively say “amen”.
Duncan reiterates his commitment to her and they chime in, repeating language used earlier to evoke their domestic bliss. Says one: “This is very nice”. The other: “And as it should be.”
But the audience should care about the characters’ happy ending. My (bourgeois-blinkered?) companion and I did not. It was insufficient recompense that the set was beautiful (Leonard Ogden) and the equally ornate dialogue at times echoed that of Oscar Wilde.
The author, Joyce Sachs, a Woolf scholar, might have been better off exploring the play’s subtheme on the different nature of male and female love.Male love is often more selfish, exhibited by Mallory’s public projection of himself through his expeditions, Duncan’s through his art, while a woman, even bi-sexual, such as Vanessa, will readily dedicate herself to a man, as she sublimated her superior artistic talent (Mallory attests) to devote herself to Duncan.
Eternal Equinox runs through Mar. 31 at 59E59, 59 E. 59th St, bet. Park and Madison.