EgoPo Theater's 'Aipotu' continues an ambitious trilogy

DM1EGOPO12-09032018-0008
Charlie DelMarcelle and Melanie Julian in ‘Aipotu’ through March 18 at EgoPo Classic Theater.

John Guare’s rich saga, Lydie Breeze Trilogy, is a major undertaking for EgoPo Classic Theater, which has just opened the second of the three full-length plays, Aipotu.

Under Lane Savadove’s imaginative direction and in Markéta Fantová’s remarkable sets of wood and sand, this allegory of America comes to brilliant visual life.  (There are 27 names listed as members of the set crew, including six carpenters.)

When we last saw the trilogy’s characters, at the end of Part I, Cold Harbor, they had suffered through the Civil War and family mayhem, and had finally arrived at Nantucket island, full of hope for the future: “We are transformed by experience. Not I. Not you. or you, or you. But us. On this beach. Right now. Together we’re a great soul capable of doing extraordinary things.” A commune was born.

Note that Aipotu is utopia spelled backward, which is coined from a Greek word meaning “no place.” Despite the many attempts at American utopian communities in the 19th century (the Shakers, Brook Farm, Oneida), the very word suggests its impossibility. And sure enough, the idealists of Aipotu are defeated by those two reliable sources of trouble: sex and money.

If you didn’t see Part I, the opening of Part II will fill you in. Seven years have passed, and the commune is broke, with the added burden of children.

Now Lydie (Melanie Julian), the nurse who led three desperate soldiers to freedom in Part I, takes a backseat, and the three men dominate the drama with predictable male rivalry: her husband, Joshua (Charlie DelMarcelle, who conveys all the sensitivity and helplessness of his situation); her lover, Dan Grady (David Girard, as the showy storytelling thief), and Amos (the very impressive Ed Swidey as the play’s most interesting character, shifting from a pathetic bumpkin to a man who has learned not only to read but the ways of the world).

Camera icon DAVE SARRAFIAN
The cast of the EgoPo Classic Theatre production of John Guare’s “Lydie Breeze” trilogy, Jan. 31-May 6. (Left to right) : Andrew J. Carroll, Shamus Hunter McCarty, James Mercer, Ed Swidey, Jahzeer Terrell, Clara Weishahn, Nathan Foley, Dane Eissler, Kristie Ecke, Kylie Westerbeck, Charlie DelMarcelle, Mark Knight, Melanie Julian, and David Girard.

Joshua, disappointed that his magnum opus of “big ideas” has been rejected, turns mean. Dan, it seems, was always mean, and all three, most cruelly Lydie, mock Amos and shift our sympathy away from these people who cannot live up to their fantasies of their best selves.

It is a demanding play and the production meets its challenges with the help of folk musicians playing and singing high above our heads under Jay Ansill’s music direction.

Perhaps the most hopeful and the most terrifying line is Lydie’s: “Anything can happen.” True in life and true in drama; now we wait to find out what  happens in Part III.

Appearance

Aipotu

    • EgoPo Classic Theater at Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American St., Philadelphia, through March 18.

    • Tickets: $25-$32