Embracing Change with Cleveland Play House's Legacy of Light

Legacy of Light, directed by Bart DeLorenzo, is the Cleveland Play Houses last mainstage production before they move to PlayhouseSquare this Fall. Its in the Drury Theatre until May 1st. (all photos from clevelandplayhouse.com)

Over the last six months, my husband Scott and I have discussed starting a family. And as any couple newly setting down this path, the standard questions have arisen: Are we financially stable enough to have kids? Will we be good parents? Is it going to be possible to balance our current lives with the dedication needed to raise a child?

All of these questions boil down to whether or not we think we’re ready.  Have we come up with a definitive answer yet? No. But as I’m starting to realize, it’s not really something you can fully prepare for. The questions will always be there — not just for us, but for anyone who’s contemplating the decision.

This same sentiment was beautifully explored in the Cleveland Play House’s current mainstage production, Legacy of Light.

Legacy of Lights story parallels the challenges that a contemporary female scientist and one in the age of Enlightenment face. Olivia (played by Michelle Duffy, left) is overwhelmed when she feels her child kick inside her surrogate Millie (Amelia Pedlow). Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni

Legacy of Light is an empowering and heart warming comedy about the challenges facing women (and the men in their lives) as they strive to lead lives that are emotionally, intellectually and spiritually fulfilling.

Traveling back and forth through time, the dual storyline follows 18th century French countess Emilie du Châtelet (whose mathematical research, in collaboration with Voltaire, paved the way for Einstein’s Theory of Relativity) and a modern day astrophysicist on the verge of making a major breakthrough on planet formation.   Though separated by 260 years, these women face the same challenges as they contemplate childbirth and how children will affect their careers.

The play was written by Karen Zacarías who was inspired by a similar situation in her life. While she was pregnant with her third child she received a major play commission. Writing a play is an all-encompassing labor of love and, with her third child on the way, Zacarías was often pondering whether it was possible to balance a busy career with her family life.

The end result was an honest but optimistic look at love (and its many different colors), the plans we make (and how life sometimes violently collides with them), and the interweaving of science and art. With the two storylines we could see how the emotional and social constructs facing each woman have changed — or in some cases haven’t changed — over the last 260 years.

As the dual storylines collide in Legacy of Light, Voltaire (played by Lenny Von Dohlen, left) discusses children, love and change with Olivia (center) and Millie (right). Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni.

The six-person cast that helped explore this was a true ensemble. As can sometimes happen with ensembles, one or two actors may outshine or overpower, but in Legacy of Light, there was a perfect balance between each actor. This was important with many of the actors playing mirror roles in the overlapping storylines.

[And as a side note on the casting: for all of those Twin Peaks or Psych fans (like me!), the role of Voltaire was played by Lenny Von Dohlen, who played the agoraphobic Harold Smith in Twin Peaks and Sheriff Andrew Jackson in Psych’s awesome homage episode to Twin Peaks, Dual Spires.]

Complementing the acting was a similarly well-balanced design that left me in awe during moments. The sound, lighting, costume and scenic design shined and reawakened a desire to return to technical theatre because of the production team’s creativity.

The sound design was often instrumental in connecting the dual storylines by transitioning a contemporary song from its modern version to an adaptation with classical instruments.

The costumes captured each characters’ personality and Emilie du Châtelet’s dresses in particular stunned.

What started as a subtle prism effect with the light design transformed into one of the most visually striking and beautiful scenes of the entire play.

And the apple tree designed and built by the Play House’s scenic design department was an engineering accomplishment as it became not just a symbol of the science discussed in the play, but an integral set piece.

Legacy of Lights technical design sparkled as much as the actors performances. Pictured, Emilie du Châtelet (played by Cerris Morgan-Moyer) ponders the theory of light and heat and its parallels to her personal life. Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni.

Overall, Legacy of Light was the perfect end to the 2010-2011 season – the Cleveland Play House’s last season in its current home. After Legacy of Light and the rest of FusionFest closes, the Play House will begin its move to PlayhouseSquare’s Allen Theatre in time for its first show of next season, Galileo.

Legacy of Light wasn’t just a fitting end because of how well done it was, but also because of the story itself. At the end of the play, one of the characters utters the line “Everything changes, but nothing is lost. Ever.” Reflecting not just the scientific theories discussed in the play, but also of the changes going on in the characters’ lives, the statement is an ideal way to look at what’s going on at the Play House.

The move to PlayhouseSquare is a natural and smart change that the Play House is gearing up for; however, they also recognize their history at 8500 Euclid Ave. Before they relocate, they will hold their annual benefit on May 7th in the current theatres and rotunda of Cleveland Play House. It will be a unique opportunity to celebrate the 95+ year history of CPH as well as its future with attendees being invited to dress in black tie attire or as characters from their favorite Play House plays.

"Everything changes, but nothing is lost. Ever." Emilie du Châtelet discovers the impact of her legacy in Millie. Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni.

As Scott and I undergo changes in our own family, I’ll continue to ask whether we’re ready. However, even if we aren’t as ready as we’d like to be, things do change regardless. And like the characters in Legacy of Light, all I can do is hope that when the time comes it will be enough.

Legacy of Light / The Cleveland Play House 411:

3 thoughts on “Embracing Change with Cleveland Play House's Legacy of Light

  1. CLEgal

    Sounds like a wonderful show that really spoke to where you are in your life. Thanks for sharing more of your own story with us. Best to you and Scott!

  2. Maria @downwarddog

    Nice review! Hadn’t heard about this show – but now I will definitely plan on seeing it. Looks like a beautiful production. We are sooo lucky to have such great theatre in NE Ohio!

  3. Pingback: Clue Into #My7Links « Clue Into Cleveland

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