Review by Danny Gaisin}
Mary Ann Evans (aka George Elliot) wrote THE MILL ON THE FLOSS around 1860 and set about forty years earlier. The author wrote under the pseudonym so that she might attract a wider readership than women authors attracted with vapid love stories. The Mill etc. is heavy with overt and transparent symbolism such as the water wheel, (what goes around…) the millrace (flow of life) and the inevitability of tides. The play teems with artistic imagery thus; challenges face any director to create a semblance of credibility; Anita La Selva certainly succeeds.
The somewhat convoluted plot deals with Maggie Tulliver from age nine to maturity; her relationship with her older brother; their parents & family; plus, her boyfriends/suitors. La Selva utilizes three actresses to portray Maggie; each one representing a different age period; but all are occasionally on stage together as a representation of historical conscience and mindset. The immature pre-teen is a cute hysterical and highly animated Alessa Dufresne. Her moments as the inner spirit to her older representations are delicious and reverberates with all of us who sublimated immaturity occasionally rises to the surface. Her teenaged segment completely forgoes the impulsiveness so endearing about Dufresne. She is orthodox, sublimated and as portrayed by Avery Logan; a diametric opposite. Logan has the carriage and deportment that underscores her rigidity and moral fortitude. Then, the audience meets the grownup Maggie played by Victoria Dennis and the transitions from No. 1 to No. 2 and then to Dennis are cleverly enacted via a bedroom mirror.
Maggie’s ver.1-3 all interact with brother Tom and Jack Comerford owns the play. His character must age both as he ages and as his family situation demands accepting responsibility. He and his role interpretation are amazingly identifiable by anyone who has had early duty and accountability thrust upon them. Those audience members who saw him in Caucasian Chalk Circle will notice how much more polished and confident he’s become as an actor.
The love interests are Zane O’Connor as the crippled Philip Wakem whose family are enemies of the Tulliver’s (Shades of Romeo & Juliet). O’Connor gives a highly sympathetic reading to his representation of a doubly handicapped suitor. He’s physically challenged, and as an intellectual; socially inept. His ability to project subtle but certain inner emotions reflect superlative thespian training and career potential. Maggie’s other swain is Johnathan Muench who is almost engaged to her cousin Lucy. He is a passionate and forceful actor but to say more would be a spoiler. Lucy also is the Tulliver’s sister and she’s a malicious spiteful witch. To play two such opposites is a Herculean task and Marissa Otto handles both with aplomb.
The senior Tullivers are Gregory Guzik and Bryn Kennedy. Both bring strong representations to their roles and to the overall situational progress of the play. The last 15-20 minutes of the play somewhat drag but this scribe does not know if that’s the fault of the playwright or put it at the foot of the director. Folks who saw UTM’s “Orestes” (O.A.R. 10/24/’15) will notice that The Mill… director’s style is somewhat comparable to that of Autumn Smith’s in attention to detail and allegoric imagery. F.Y.I. the idealizing of a rushing river is the same that Stratford uses for their iterations of “The Tempest” …very effective.
THE MILL ON THE FLOSS, staged by Theatre Erindale, is at the UTM campus Mist Theatre (CCT Bldg) until March 5th.