Eva Trilogy Review - Magic Theatre
The Eva Trilogy
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THE EVA TRILOGY—Contemplating Life
Caleb Cabrera (left) as Tom and Julia McNeal as Eva in No Coast Road, the third part of Barbara Hammond's The Eva Trilogy.
Review: Judith M. Wilson
Photos: Jennifer Reiley
The Eva Trilogy is a thought-provoking play. First, it presents a weighty issue for viewers to ponder, and then its structure challenges any preconceptions audiences might have about the nature of dramatic storytelling. Barbara Hammond’s work is currently playing at the Magic Theatre at Fort Mason in its world premiere, and it’s a groundbreaking work that consists of three plays performed consecutively to create one whole, giving viewers a new experience that prods them to ask questions and consider their implications.
The story revolves around an Irish woman, Eva, who has lived in Paris for many years, but returns to the town of Rush in Dublin County to care for her mother, who is in failing health and close to the end of her life. In the first play, Eden, she is waiting for her mother’s caregiver from hospice, who has a busy life and is running late, and as the time passes, she’s center stage, contemplating her rebellious life and current circumstances. Little by little, she reveals her character, and as she does, she gives insight into many of her motivations and actions, with her thoughts flowing in a stream of consciousness that explains her life entirely from her own perspective. It’s in the spirit of Molly Bloom’s monologue in James Joyce’s Ulysses, and with one actress carrying the full burden of the play, it’s a challenging role. Julia McNeal (right), however, does it beautifully, with a nuanced performance, holding the audience’s attention and giving passion to the role, as she gradually peels back the layers of who Eva is and what drives her to make a life-changing decision.
Eva is also at the center of Enter the Roar, the second play, even though she never appears. Instead, it unfolds as a court scene in Dublin, with the characters reflecting on their own lives and the nature of life itself. Questions, which aren’t explicitly stated, are the catalyst, and rather than simply giving testimony, each witness examines his or her own actions and personal beliefs, with Eva’s situation setting the thought process in motion. Constant interruptions from outside forces, however, make it difficult to find clarity.
Lisa Anne Porter plays Teresa, Eva’s sister and the good daughter who has led a conventional life, according to the standards of the society in which she was raised. She struggles to understand human nature and the circumstances she’s found herself in, but she finds that easy answers are elusive. Eamon, portrayed by Rod Gnapp, is a man who feels fortunate to have a family to love, and while he’s somewhat bewildered by recent events, he’s also a realist who adds perspective to a difficult situation. He stands in contrast to Father O’Leary, played by Justin Gillman (above right, with Lisa Anne Porter), whose sees life in absolute terms and lacks sufficient experience in life to adjust his worldview and consider other possibilities. Roisin, the hospice worker charged with caring for Eva’s mother, with Amy Nowak in the role, is the mother of an infant, and as such, she sees both ends of life’s spectrum. What’s in between is the challenge. It’s a strong cast with well-drawn characters, and with Loretta Greco’s capable direction, the actors convey the dilemma of characters who can never truly understand someone else’s motivation.
No Coast Road, the third entry in the trilogy, is set in Corsica 30 years later, and this time, dialog comes into play in the interaction between Eva and a young American, Tom, played by Caleb Cabrera (left), whom she encounters in the forest. Their chance meeting leads them to look back at their lives and prod each other to look deep within themselves, as they recall the events that set them on paths they didn’t expect. The setting, in the midst of nature with no outside distractions, allows them to do it with clarity. Meanwhile, a nymph, portrayed by Megan Trout, flittering through the trees at night gives the scene a magical quality reminiscent of Irish myth.
Barbara Hammond is an American playwright who spent several years in Ireland, and she calls on her personal experiences and combines Ireland’s rich literary tradition and American daring to create a work that asks questions, makes profound observations and shows the need to live life to the fullest while following one’s own path. As such, it makes demands of the audience, but that’s the essence of good drama, and it’s one of The Eva Trilogy’s strengths.
Left, Barbara Hammond. Photo by Annabel Clark.
The Eva Trilogy runs Tuesday through Sunday through November 12 at the Magic Theatre at Fort Mason in San Francisco. Tickets are available at www.magictheatre.org or by calling 415-441-8822.
Amy Nowak as Roisin
Justin Gillman as Father O'Leary