Theatre review: The Love of the Nightingale

From left: Stephanie Morrison as Queen of Athens Zeuxippe, Avery Reid as Philomela, Kuup Peters as Tereus and Erik Stephany as King of Athens Pandeon I. (Marlys Klossner/The Omega)

From left: Stephanie Morrison as Queen of Athens Zeuxippe, Avery Reid as Philomela, Kuup Peters as Tereus and Erik Stephany as King of Athens Pandeon I. (Marlys Klossner/The Omega)

For anyone unfamiliar with the original Greek legend, The Love of the Nightingale was a shocking play. What begins as a story of two kingdoms and their families quickly turns into a dark theme about rape and abuse.

The theatre was quite full, only having about a dozen or so empty seats left for their first Thursday night showcase.

Although the play is based on the ancient Greek legend and takes place during that time, the dialogue was relatively easy to understand. The audience effortlessly followed along with the story, especially when it took a more serious turn.

The play begins in ancient Athens during wartime. The King of Athens makes a deal with the King of Thrace, Tereus, by allowing him to marry one of his two daughters, Procne. Procne isn’t happy about leaving her sister, Philomele, and her home, but obeys her father. Once they arrive in Thrace, Procne has a hard time connecting to the people and culture and asks for the King to retrieve her sister for company. This is when the play really begins to gain some depth.
Tereus travels to Athens once again to collect Philomele. While on the ship returning back to Thrace, it becomes increasingly apparent that Tereus is attracted to Philomele and has a plan to do something about it. Philomele is first unaware of his intentions, but as time goes on, Tereus admits his feelings towards her. She is appalled and rejects him. Out of anger, he rapes her. After the act, Philomele threatens to tell his whole kingdom about the kind of man he really is. Out of fear, Tereus cuts out her tongue.

At this point in the play, the audience fell into a dead stillness, in which no one repositioned or moved at all in their seats. The onstage relationship with Tereus, played by Kuup Peters, and Philomele, played by Avery Reid, almost made one uncomfortable, simply because they did such an astounding job.

It’s so uncomfortable because it’s suggested throughout the play that although this is based off a Greek myth, it is real in today’s society. It is quite difficult to separate oneself from a reenactment of something that occurs far too often in real life.

Reid’s portrayal of a weak, violated woman is heartbreaking to watch. However, Peters’ character appears to be one with more depth, as he claims love for Philomele yet his actions display the opposite. Peters does an incredible job of portraying such a dark character.

The biggest aspect of the play that leaves the viewer unsettled is the ending. According to myth, the story ends with the gods turning Tereus and the sisters into different birds. Philomele becomes a nightingale, relating back to the title of the play. The conflicts are never resolved, but instead paused. It leaves the viewer unsatisfied, but mirrors how these situations most likely end in real life.

By the end of the production, many audience members had nothing but positive feedback on the performance. The Love of the Nightingale is not a light Sunday afternoon production, but instead a striking performance of an old tale about an issue still prevalent today.