Last night I had the chance to see Orpheus Descending at the Menier Chocolate Factory. The play by Tennesse Williams went through many re-writes and short productions since it was first written in 1940, called Battle Of Angels at the time. I hadn’t ever read or seen the play before, so went in with little expectations.
The play takes place in a small town in the southern USA, dominated by conservatism, racism, narrow mindedness, and tradition. It is set in a dry goods store, owned by Lady and her very ill husband. Lady is not a happy wife, and at odds with many people in the community. When a young guitar slinger named Val shows up, everything changes and things get a whole lot more complicated.
The play is not modernised, but rather set as it was intended and seems a bit like a snapshot of days long past. I really like this part about it, as a lot of modernised versions of such antiquated tales often fall short and lose all their heart and soul to the point of seeming hollow and senseless. This isn’t one of those circumstances.
Characters whirl through the store, the one location we see the story unfold through, and bit by bit we learn more about the history and failings of the individual players. It is very well acted and the bare set really helps focus on the story and interpersonal relationships.
I really enjoyed seeing this production and mull over the horrifying implications of how these antiquated mindsets still reside in people today. A story about love, passion, hopelessness, ostrasizing and change, I’d definitely recommend catching this small production while it is still running. Absolutely worth your time, five out of six rainbow sloths!