REVIEW: Searching for answers in The Huntington’s ‘Joy and Pandemic’
Medicine and faith and faith versus fear as a pandemic is looming.
These powerful topics should all be more than vaguely familiar in this day and age. However, the most recent pandemic is not when Taylor Mac’s Joy and Pandemic takes place though from its urgent dialogue, it all seems like yesterday.
Directed meditatively by Loretta Greco, The Huntington presents the World Premiere of Taylor Mac’s Joy and Pandemic live and in person as well at Calderwood Pavilion in Boston, Massachusetts through Sunday, May 21. It is also available digitally through June 4. The show is two hours with one 15 minute intermission. Click here for more information and for tickets.
Joy and Pandemic delves into a number of topics and it is not surprising that this production is running through and beyond Mother’s Day. It has an increasing intensity around the pandemic of 1918 in Philadelphia, but it also focuses on the shaping and influence mothers have on their daughters. What about doubt? What if a mother casts a shadow over what is right and wrong?
Though the show can meander and its formal dialogue is a bit muddled at times, Joy and Pandemic presents some important viewpoints that tip the scales on what is important in times of crisis. It is not preachy and delves into extreme behavior of those who make decisions strictly based on faith who might benefit from a bit more common sense.
Joy and Pandemic is about a passionate, independent and hardworking Christian Science mother and artist named Joy, her new husband Bradford and her excitable, impressionable and eccentric daughter Pilly. They are running a fine arts school for children and plan to have an open house on the same day the town is holding a parade, even through whispers of the Spanish flu to the dismay of Joy’s mother in law Rosemary.
Arnulfo Maldonado’s transformative, layered, and eye opening scenic design is strewn with paintbrushes, framed art work, shelves full of assorted pottery and art books as crown molding and retro wallpaper adorn the walls and brass, vintage chandeliers hang overhead. Just as impressive is the astounding sound effects and presentation of the parade with booms and pops by Fan Zhang and lighting by Jen Schriver. Zhang also effectively rewinds the clock with American Standards by Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra.
Even while exploring themes like faith, illness, medicine, life, and death, the cast manages to bring some occasional and much needed relatable humor to the production. Marceline Hugot brings gravitas and hardnosed practicality as Joy’s mother in law Rosemary and Ryan Winkles is formidable as Joy’s mysterious husband Bradford. Due to a portion of the show’s clever casting, it is best not to say more except that Stacy Fischer, Ella Dershowitz, and Breezy Leigh fit smoothly into their perspective roles. Joy and Pandemic is not so much about joy itself though it does touch upon it outside its moments of intensity, poignancy, and insightful dialogue. Somewhere along the way lies hope.
The Huntington presents the World Premiere of Taylor Mac’s Joy and Pandemic live and in person at Calderwood Pavilion in Boston, Massachusetts through Sunday, May 21 and will continue streaming through June 4. Click here for more information and for tickets.