ponder the imponderable. Does the spider spin its web to live, or
does it live to spin? Poets and playwrights spin webs of magic and
moonlight because they must. Playwright, poet, musical composer,
visual artist, and director Stephen
Legawiec spins his fables of legend and lore, not for fame and
fortune but because he must. In this latest gift from Ziggurat Theatre
Company, Orpheus and Eurydice meet Wynken, Blynken, and Nod; Greek
myth rubs shoulders with Mother Goose, and common folk from Bryggen,
"a small village on the ocean," encounter bizarre characters
from terra incognita. Each year a mysterious tribute ship of "gold
like the Pharaoh's" sails into harbor bringing Christmas to
Bryggen. One year seafaring mapmaker Orville Scribbet's wife, Eurydell,
walks out of the house and is seen no more. The ship no longer comes
to harbor. Bryggen turns bleak; Orville turns sour and becomes a
descended into Hades looking for Eurydice; Orville ventures out
in quest of Eurydell. Sunk in misery, he must be forced to do so
by three clowns, magical boat-builder Bastaglio, and a wonderful
flying ship. With Nobbli, Fobbli, and Boo, Orville sails off "in
a wooden shoe one night, sails on a river of crystal light, into
a sea of dew" and adventures in strange places. Dean
Purvis is a somber and stony Orville; he loves his wife but
he's always off at sea. Pensive Eurydell wanders away. As Eurydell,
Jenny Woo doesn't get to
use her awesome movement skills, or do anything but stand and look
lovely in auburn curls and a rich velvet gown of sea-foam green,
with an endearing dimple in her right cheek. Spunky, good-hearted
clowns Nobbli, Fobbli, and Boo wear half masks and, played by Jill
Lawrence, Beverly Sotelo, and Dana
Wieluns, are determinedly cheerful.
Jaeger sings powerfully well as Bastaglio, maker of boats and dreams.
Amanda Karr as a gallant, lonely Countess sings poignantly of bygone
days with fine doings and boon companions. She begs them to stay,
to come again. AnnaLisa Erickson's canny Cockney Mrs. Quince, "dealer
in rare commodities," makes points impressively. Michelle Tanazas
sings beautifully as inexorable Time and plays a forlorn maiden
mourning her mother's death, under the thumb of her father, Mueen
Ahmad's stern Bulgar.
costumes by Robert Velasquez,
music by Susan Christiansen,
lighting by Leif Gantvoort,
and especially Legawiec's set of clean lines and lustrous hues inspired
by Maxfield Parrish paintings are aesthetically pleasing. Eurydell,
back from a dark place, wanderers safe at home, the tribute ship's
gilded prow glides into harbor bringing Christmas back to Bryggen.
Is all well once more? We hope so. But Ziggurat feels the chill
of zeitgeist. A wistful melancholy hovers over all, and this brave
company greets the blessed season with staunch heart, goodwill,
and all the merriment it can muster.
Orpheus myth's meaningful update
intelligence distinguishes "Winterquest," receiving its
world premiere by the Ziggurat Theatre Ensemble at the Gascon Center
Theatre in Culver City.
Stephen Legawiec refashions
the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice into a holiday odyssey of notable
setting is the ocean-side village of Bryggen, where cartographer
Orville Scribbet (Dean Purvis)
dwells with wife Eurydell (Jenny
Woo). Their idyllic existence is threatened by Orville's wanderlust,
causing his housebound spouse to disappear during a curtain-shopping
Bryggen's seasonal tributary boat fails to appear on schedule, three
commedia-masked artisans (Jill Lawrence, Beverly Sotelo and Dana
Wieluns) enlist the embittered Orville to help them find it.
Their airborne journey shapes a regenerative Christmas parable,
summed up by Eurydell's locket inscription: "The heart's terrain
is vast and unsounded/But love's a torch, clearing wide a sacred
field for miracles."
staging is imaginative, with his set, Robert
Velasquez's costumes, Beckie
Kravitz's masks and Leif
Gantvoort's lighting consistent in their homage to Maxfield
strong-voiced ensemble is most endearing. Purvis recalls the young
William Converse-Roberts, well-matched to Woo's graceful Eurydell.
The three clowns are superbly expressive and funny, and their colleagues
are uniformly fine.
are discrepancies. The muted visuals, though admirable, fall short
of full-blown wonder, with the tribute ship's eventual appearance
sparseness, along with composer Susan
Christiansen's emphasis on ballads and the bittersweet narrative,
may prove challenging for wee attention spans. Their elders, however,
should revel in such charming, meaningful family fare.
David C. Nichols
a charming production, writer-director Stephen
Legawiec’s Christmas fable-romance marks a refreshing
addition to customary yuletide faire, drawing its inspiration from
Maxfield Parrish and the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.
are in Bryggen, "a small village on the ocean," where
cartographer Orville Scribbet (Dean
Purvis) lives with his wife, Eurydell (Jenny
Woo). Seemingly all is well, but his frequent absences dispirit
her, and she suddenly walks out. Alone and miserable, Orville is
visited by three masked, clownish characters named Nobbli (Jill
Lawrence), Fobbli (Beverly Sotelo) and Boo (Dana
Wieluns), who pester him into joining them on a trip to find
a lost treasure ship in time for Christmas. Along the way, they
encounter a glib shakedown artist (AnnaLisa Erickson), a loony Countess
(Amanda Karr), and an imperious Bulgar (Mueen Ahmad) and his melancholy
daughter, Annabelle (Michelle Tanazas). The adventurous quartet
eventually succeeds, and the saga glides to an appropriately cheery
90-minute piece plays out on Jeff McLaughlin’s staid wood-paneled
set with a raised, patiolike center piece and "Parrish blue"
backdrop. In addition to the ensemble’s smooth work, one of
the more appealing elements is Susan
Christiansen’s original musical compositions, flawlessly
performed by the cast. Also included in the musical lineup are Christmas
staples like "O’ Come Emmanuel" and "Adeste
Fideles." Robert Velasquez’s
eye-catching mélange of costumes are equally impressive.
been awhile since we've had a new Christmas tale in the true, old
fashioned tradition. Writer/director Stephen
Legawiec, of the award winning Ziggurat Theatre Ensemble, used
as his inspiration for his new work, Winterquest, the Greek myth
of Orpheus and Eurydice and the enchantingly ethereal paintings
of Maxfield Parrish.
story goes like this: in the little, coastal village of Bryggen,
an annual Christmas event brings the residents together in joy and
friendship. The event is the arrival of a large tribute ship loaded
with gifts. One of the inhabitants of the tiny burg is Orville Scribbet
(Dean Purvis). Orville's
work keeps him traveling about the world, leaving his lonely wife,
Eurydell (Jenny Woo) to grow
lonelier. He does, however, always return for the holidays and the
arrival of the gift ship. One day, upon his return from distant
lands, Eurydell leaves to go get new curtains, never to return.
Orville goes into seclusion.
Many years pass. One Christmas, a major upheaval takes place in
the village; the tribute ship does not come. Three local, clown-like
craftsmen, Nobbli, Fobbli and Boo (Jill Lawrence, Beverly Sotelo
and Dana Wieluns, respectively)
trick Orville into captaining a smaller boat to go find the missing
Christmas ship. As the mystical fable unfolds, the little vessel
becomes airborne and the magical adventures and misadventures commence,
culminating in a moral for everyone to take home with them.
is pleasant, holiday entertainment for the entire family. The highly
stylized and uniformly fine tuned performances, under the baton
of the extremely creative maestro Legawiec, are a delight, especially
the three clowns wearing splendidly expressive masks (designed by
Beckie Kravitz). The
script is as playful in its use of comedy and tragedy as the visually
lively staging is. Half the cast does double and triple duty in
role playing. The players: James Jaeger, Mueen Ahmad, Amanda Karr,
AnnaLisa Erickson, Michelle
Tanazas (vocals) and Sam Ebnet. Susan
Christiansen (original music), Mary Kate Karr (musical director),
Legawiec (set), Leif Gantvoort
(lights) and Robert
Velasquez (costumes) make up the competent design team.