Written by Elizabeth Ann Foster
History repeats itself. Trends recycle every half a century or so.
Constancy by Neith Boyce is a play inspired by her turn-of-the-century circle of friends that were exploring open relationships. Sound familiar circa 1960? A clandestine meeting of lovers after a long history of entanglement. Performed originally in Boyce’s Provincetown rented summer house for friends with Glaspells’s Suppressed Desires, the audience simply turned their chairs around to see the second play. It must have been a fun evening.
This virtual performance of Constancy is fun. Live from the actors’ apartments, the audience closes their eyes after gazing at a glorious moon to set up the next virtual scene. Immediately my husband declared he was not going to do that, but closing one’s eyes added to the fun and adventure of the play and heightened the excitement. He is the one who prefers not to dress up for the Saturday night virtual performances. All I hoped for were a smoking jacket and ascot! There must be a resident naysayer for contrast to keep things interesting.
The reading, directed by Laura Livingston, allows Rex (Paul Bomba) to roam around his apartment to display his nervousness while Moira (Elisabeth Ahrens) is poised, confident, and ready to hear Rex’s excuses. It works. Just look at Ahrens facial expression captured on the Zoom frame. Transported in time, the characters come alive. Rex is hilarious as he tries to go back and rekindle his love affair. He points out he has been constant to his lover Moira who replies by pointing out his only constancy is his continual returns to her after dalliances. It’s a groundbreaking, heroic play portraying a woman rejecting sexual roles placed on her by society. Ahrens has to be complimented for not breaking character – she was tested rigorously throughout the 30 minutes.
Boyce wrote an alternative ending and the actors read it for the virtual performance. The entire creative team explains which end they prefer. Does Moira take Rex back? Which finish do you prefer? You will have to watch the play available at the Metropolitan Virtual Playhouse site archives. Well worth the ½ hour investment of time to see this relationship unfold that will bring levity to whomever you cheer.
The Metropolitan Playhouse presents plays unique to the American theatre experience and heritage. This week’s offering is from New York City’s Greenwich Village at the turn of the century. A group of bohemian friends all took up residence there and attended the famous salon of Mabel Dodge of whom the character Moira is based. She met John Reed at one of her salon evening discussions and they carried on an affair for many years. John Reed is Rex, and Boyce’s peers would be familiar with the story when presented. The salon gave birth to the Province Town Players. The dramaturgy is available on the Metropolitan Virtual Playhouse website here
Thanks once again to the Metropolitan Playhouse for their continuous innovation. Each week there are surprises and novel presentation methods. By creating and performing, virtual playhouse actors are continuing to present their art, and the public continues to get its fix of the theater weekly. As Moira says to Rex, “You are the perfect man you have forgotten everything” this is one virtual reading you will not forget – man, woman, or any being.
Constancy – by Neith Boyce, directed by Laura Livingston.
With – Elisabeth Ahrens (Moira), Paul Bomba (Rex). With special guest for a post-show talk J. Ellen Gainor, Ph.D
Professor of Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University.
Metropolitan Playhouse 220 E 4th Street New York, New York 10009 http://metropolitanplayhouse.org/virtualplayhouse Saturday, June 1, 2020, virtual lobby open starting at 7:55. Reading at 8:00 pm. The next live show of Ever Young by Alice Gerstenberg is Saturday, June 6, 2020, at 8 pm. This is the third work of Gerstenberg to be showcased and performed. Available on Zoom link posted on the website for weekly live viewing, YouTube, and broadcast on Pacifica 99.5 www.wbai.org. There is no charge to join and watch a live Zoom production or on archives. Please consider a donation instead of a ticket to the Artist Relief Fund. Information about the theater’s ARTISTS RELIEF FUND found at www.metropolitanplayhouse.org/covidaid. Running time 30 minutes with talk back and Q&A to follow.
Readers might also enjoy our Fully Committed, Jane Anger, The Orchard, and Witness reviews.