Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 24, 2023

REVIEW: Shakespeare and Company, "Lunar Eclipse"

Shakespeare and Company, Lenox, MA.
through October 22, 2023
by Beverly Dane
Photo by Maggie Hall
In this 90-minute one-act play, two actors with enormous depth and honesty talk of the
relationship of George and Em, a long-married couple, somewhere in the mid-west on a summer night. A lunar eclipse is happening that night, and as the moon goes through various stages, so do the characters as they reflect on their losses, their hopes, and their lives together.
This is a world premiere of Donald Margulies’ most recent play, and Reed Birney as George, affects a perfect mid-western accent. His wife, Em, played by Karen Allen, is equally up to the challenge of keeping the dialogue crisp as the two reflect on their lives together and their two adopted children. The daughter is successful but lives far away.  The son, recently deceased by his own actions. The play goes back and forth from focusing on family to focusing on American culture from the eyes of these hard-working farmers. Themes of optimism and despair reflect contemporary America, but in Margulies’ clever dialog, the story evolves toward a wonderfully executed emotional state. 
Director James Warwick has staged the piece simply, to underscore the simplicity of their lives, and a voice-over tells us that the moon, like the characters, are entering a different phase of the eclipse. In a coda, we see these actors at another stage of their life, and suddenly, the shocks, the disappointments, and the joys, all become clearer.
Loss and mortality are themes that are presented in simple language, but the words are beautiful, as is the lighting by James McNamara. The simplicity of the costumes by Christina Beam help give us a sense of the economic status of these characters, and they become surrogates for ourselves as we share their disappointments and their grief.   George still can’t grieve for his son, though he’s surrounded by the graves of the dogs he loved throughout his life. Em never really got used to the farm life, having come from the city, but somehow, the juxtaposition of the themes and the actors’ honesty touches the audience deeply, and profoundly.
This is a beautiful story, convincingly executed by two phenomenal actors and a team of creative people who understand how deeply stories like these reach out and make us feel compassion. It may be one of Shakespeare and Company’s finest works this summer.