On the Eve would seem to be all about change. Enjoying its professional world premiere production at Theatre Three, it is a breathtaking, raucous, kinesthetic rock and roll musical montage, comically and bombastically exploring the history of mankind, and the forces that turn the wheels as humanity evolves, flounders, digresses and occasionally, takes a quantum leap. Set on the eve of ….what? The apocalypse? Watershed? Collapse of society? A new age? On the Eve is a gathering of ragtag homeless folks, all ages (living in some kind of bunker?) acting out, and singing with much gusto and tremulous passion, an elaborate morality play of sexuality, dominance, gender, misery, exuberance, science, tyranny…. it weaves a tapestry of narratives that overwhelms and enthralls, and it’s a lot to process in a single evening. Though in this case, definitely, more is more.
Beginning on the brink of the French Revolution and highlighting the hijinks of Marie Antoinette and King Louis, On the Eve also tells the parallel story of Simone and Joseph, a sweet couple who have hit a ragged patch because Joseph is too immersed in his research to notice that they are monetarily challenged and his devoted wife is hungry for love. Joseph’s brother Etienne just knows they are on the verge of glory, and Simone is understandably feeling neglected and dejected. Meanwhile Antoinette is scoring some serious sexual healing on the downlow with scrumptious and virile time traveler Chase Spacegrove. Later in the show, Martha Harms, who plays Antoinette, will play brilliant linguist Marie in another lifetime. Jenny Ledel (Simone) will now play her dutiful sister, Caroline. I don’t think this is merely a matter of double casting, but rather, a thoughtful theatrical metaphor for the connection between identity and circumstance. Is Caroline the reincarnation of Simone? Perhaps. Both characters are subjugated to the brilliance of others. In a grand, sly turn of wit and cynicism, the ghost of Marie and Caroline’s mother appears on a regular basis to Caroline, to undermine her already famished self-esteem. Played by the formidable and delightful Kristin McCollum, “Mother” embodies the enervating paradox of maternal support that nonetheless engenders despair.
Created by Seth Magill, Shawn Magill and Michael Federico, On the Eve is a bracing, ambitious, musical collage that succeeds through a mixture of playfulness, verve, jaundice, optimism, and loopy, effusive impulses. It’s giddy machinations nearly mask its intelligent, comprehensive grasp of how culture can be manipulated, annihilated or salvaged. The performers invite us to participate in this ecstasy of flowing emotion and soul, invading the audience, ignoring the fourth wall, encouraging us, as they have, to leap in with both feet. The versatile, limber cast is more impish and fun than a basket full of jumping jelly beans. I heard so much enthusiastic buzz about On the Eve before I went, I was afraid (as is so often the case) it couldn’t possibly match the rapture everyone was extolling. I have to say, it was every bit as phenomenal, spectacular and stirring as I’d hoped and much, much more. Treat yourself. Go.
Theatre Three presents the professional world premiere of Seth Magill, Shawn Magill and Michael Federico’s On the Eve, playing January 16th-February 16th, 2014. 2800 Routh Street, The Quadrangle, Suite 168, Dallas, Texas 75201. 214-871-3300. www.theatre3dallas.com