A recent discovery of mine, I love the Greenway Court Theatre venue! What a wonderful space. The lobby feels like you're waiting in line at Disneyland for Mr. Toad's Wild Ride or something. Inside the house, the stage itself is lovely, but something about the high beams and structure of the ceiling make it feel so cozy, like you're watching a show in a furnished barn with air conditioning. It's a great venue, so I'm glad that their awesome space has now been utilized by an equally interesting and magical LA theatre staple, Coeurage Theatre Company. Coeurage always goes above and beyond in choosing content that really challenges the theatre community (in the best way possible) and eagerly invites conversation.
My companion for the night's performance was my friend Chelsie from church, who is also an actor, currently writing a show to be shown at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018. I will admit I am both jealous and excited for her! Also grateful to have such an active working artist accompanying me for Coeurage's opening night of Emelie: La Marquis Do Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight by the young and championed playwright, Lauren Gunderson.
Chelsie and I both agreed that it took us a bit to warm up to the style and tone of the play. I'm not a big fan of the classical era, but as soon as I shut that opinion down, I was able to realize the power of this script and this often overlooked moment in history.
EMILIE: He's only seeing what he wants to see; that's not science, that's drama.
In short, this is the story of a woman of the past, fighting a battle still present in today's culture. She is trying to establish her rightful place in a traditionally male dominated world while taking authority to tell her own story. There are a lot of things I like about this script actually, and it may be my favorite element of this production. At first I was afraid. I'm not scientifically minded. I was nervous I wouldn't understand the scientific theories mentioned. But the text explains everything just enough for you to get it and just enough for you not to get bored. I'm jumping over a lot here, and there is a lot going on in this story, but I want to jump to my favorite moment that seems to deviate from the more major themes. My favorite part of the show was when the playwright chose to include Emilie's neglect for her daughter. As an audience, we're so busy cheering and rooting for Emilie's exciting scientific, academic, romantic endeavors, her fight towards equality, that we, nearly as much as her, completely overlook the impact she could have made on her daughter until it is literally too late. It was heartbreaking, for everyone, because for a woman making such a dynamic impact on society and eventually history, she nearly, and from the play's perspective unintentionally, swims upstream past her motherly responsibilities. This moment can be conceptualized into a modern context in many different ways, and I love that about it. For me, on a very human level, it was a gentle yet powerful reminder of how family, who we should be giving our utmost to, can often get swept under the rug while we branch out and pursue our dreams. Or sometimes simply, we treat our friends better than our family. And I know, you can't pick your family and everyone's different. But, it reminded me of when my siblings and I would come home from school, our parents telling us "We ran into so-and-so at the grocery store and they couldn't stop telling us how kind and well-mannered and helpful our kids are. And we were like, 'you can't be talking about our kids.' Why can't you be as well behaved for us and you are for our neighbors?!" Emilie's daughter probably heard similar dialogue about her prolific mother. We should be treating our family better giving them our first. So this play inspires me to go back and do that. And also to aim to be a total boss across all fronts like Emilie. An Emilie of the American Theatre.
Emilie: We have nothing in common but our offspring, but he's a good man.
After seeing him in a number of Coeurage productions I can confidently say that I am a fan of Nardeep Khurmi. In this performance, listed in the program as Gentleman, he effortlessly convinces us as a plethora of characters, from Emilie's ridged husband the general to the man she might call her greatest, truest love. Plus, he's fun to watch in all his characters. Bravo! And the boy works, with other theatre companies (Rogue Machine to name one) as well as keeping busy in the film world. He's just finishing up post production on one of many short films he's created. Super excited to see his work on this latest film Pagg (following a Sikh man's response to a terrible hate crime and how it affects his identity) and anxious to see him in the LA Theatre scene even more. Get it Khurmi!
Emilie: La Marquis Du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight runs at the Greenway Court Theatre through September 17th. Go for the history lesson, go for the well-told story and go for the reminder that women are still fighting for equality, across many different fronts.