Written in 1924 by Eugene O'Neill, Desire Under the Elms, is a story that explores profound human connections and the depths that people will go to have what they desire. Inspired by the myth of Phaedra, Hippolytus and Theseus, O'Neill's story is set in New England where patriarch Ephraim (Darren Mort) returns to his home in New England with new wife, Abbie (Diana Brumen). This does not bode well with his three sons (Garikai Jani, Timothy Smith and Sam Lavery) as the tension builds to a devastating end.
perfectly encapsulates youngest son's Eben's resentment towards his
father and the
rage that burns inside him, yet at the same time brings to the surface
the tenderness and love that he can also feel. His scenes with Brumen
are gripping and you're never quite sure which way their story is going
to go, even if it is based on a Greek tragedy. Brumen's manipulative and
scheming Abbie is convincing, but it is during her horrific and tragic
final scenes that she is able to channel everything Abbie has been
experiencing until that moment.
Director and founder of The Sol III Company, Andrei Schiller-Chan does a brilliant job in portraying these characters' emotions and thoughts beyond the words of the play, in particular the scene
where Ephraim reminiscences about his past loneliness to Abbie.
Having Ephraim off to the side, we are drawn into Abbie and Eben's
private, silent conversation from Abbie's bedroom to Eben standing
downstairs in the kitchen. The fight scene between the father and son is
also powerfully executed and choreographed.
at times, the story does seem to slow down significantly in pace, with
a sense of repetition in the scenes being played out, the
cohesiveness of the technical and design elements continue to keep us
intrigued. Production designer Hahna Read's set, despite the limitations
of the physical space on the stage, has a firm feeling of authenticity
and the waft of bread baking throughout the space further added to that.
MacFarlene's elegant lighting design is used effectively to convey the emotions
and thoughts of the characters while subtly supporting the mood of
the play. Similarly, Paul Raine's sound design is evocative and adds adroitly to
the environment of the farmhouse in which the story is situated.
Desire Under the Elms
is a tale about ancient and basic human emotions;
love and jealousy. It's about growing up, letting go - and also revenge.
Similar to their production last year of The Exonerated, The
Sol III Company excel in exploring these universal but complex themes and have
created another thoughtful and captivating performance in Desire Under the Elms.
Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Season: 24 July | 8pm Tues- Sun, 2pm Sat 16 & 23 July, 5pm Sun 17, 3pm Sun 24
Tickets: $38 Full | $33 Conc | $28.50 under 25
Bookings: Chapel Off Chapel
*Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 10 July