Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Review of Prop Thtr and Pop Magic Productions' In Sarah's Shadow: The Eleonoras Duse Story

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called In Sarah's Shadow: The Eleonora Duse Story. It was written and directed by Olivia Lilley. It was devised by Lilley, Dyllan Rodrigues-Miller, Nick Benz, Mary Iris Loncto, Kelly Anderson, and Davia Bhandari. The choreography was by Kelly Anderson Williamson. It was about a girl named Eleonora (Rodrigues-Miller) who was in her family's traveling theater company and she dreamed of a day when she wouldn't have to sleep on the streets anymore. So she started her own acting career in Rome after her parents (Bhandari and Benz) died. She gets discovered by an agent (Benz) but he is slightly sketchy. So when she starts getting rave reviews she decided to go out on her own to America. She starts to hang out with all the rich people and meets Gabriele D'Annunzio (Benz) who is a writer and Isadora Duncan (Loncto) who is the modern dancer. She becomes friends and lovers with them both, but one of the relationships doesn't work out that well. I think this is a really intriguing and beautifully done show. I learned a lot about Isadora Duncan and Eleonora Duse, and I want to learn a lot more.

I think this show had some really great dances in it. I'm a really big fan of dance. I loved how they mixed modern dance with more of a classical style. When they wanted to express emotions it was more modern and lyrical. They used the classical for more happy scenes that stayed happy and didn't transform halfway through the song. I really liked the dance where Eleonora was introduced to Isadora Duncan. It was a great introduction to her and showed how different her dance style was in this era. I thought it was so beautiful how her scarf flew around her. I also loved the dance where Sarah Bernhardt was on stage performing. The dance reminded me of how acting was back then; it was very melodramatic. I think the dance embodied that in a good way because it emphasized each gesture she made and each heartfelt motion. It is a good idea to think of this as more of a dance show when you go see it, because there is a lot of dancing in it.

I really liked the scene with D'Annunzio and Duse where they decided they were going to make a play together. It was a very sweet scene because you really got to see their real connection together and how they wanted to help each other with their careers in any way they possibly could. He seemed to recognize that she needed a play for herself so she wasn't always just doing Shakespeare. She could express her true feelings in a play written for her that had a character that she wanted to play, instead of just going through all the same emotions she'd done on stage a thousand times before. It really made me root for the relationship, and it made me very sad when it started to go off the rails.

It seemed like this show had more dance than theater, and though I liked both, I wish they had leveled out into more of a equally-distributed suspension. I wanted more theater because I wanted to see these characters saying their emotions and ideas more. I think expressing your emotion through dance is a powerful thing, but I wanted to see more of the speaking element, although the dance they do is very beautiful. Language is powerful in a different way than dance. Dance shows how you are feeling, but language allows more complex and detailed expression. I think it is a good idea to have dance in this show, and I think it is a good way to tell a simple story, like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, but I think it is more difficult to tell a complex real life story just with dance. So it is good that they also had elements of theater. I just wish there had been a little more to fill in some of the gaps in the story.

People who would like this show are people who like dance, intriguing characters, and flowing scarves. I think that people should go see this show. It tells the story of Eleonora Duse in a really compelling and beautiful way. I had never heard of her or her work before and I'm very glad I saw this show because she is such a fascinating person.

Photos: Beth Rooney

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