‘Eugenia’ Excels

It isn’t fair to critique a play based on its opening night performance. Regardless of the skill level, it always takes actors a few minutes to settle in before they’re able to carry on with the show.

With that being said, New Paltz Theater Department’s Mainstage production of “Eugenia” was still solid on its opening night, and will only continue to get better.

Eugenia is a juxtaposition between two stories. First is the story of Italian immigrant Eugenia Martelli, a transgender woman who goes by the name of Jack in 1916 New Zealand. Martelli  marries a woman named Violet Davis. The second story is of a modern-day New Zealand school set to perform a play about the titular character’s life.

The two storylines were the major weaknesses of the show. Eugenia’s storyline was much stronger than the present-day storyline. It was much more cohesive and easier to get in touch with, as opposed to the present-day plot.

The characters in the past had more depth and personality than those in the present. It was also much easier to empathize and develop feelings for the characters in the past. Eugenia’s story felt more complete and fulfilling.

But that isn’t because of how the stories were executed. It has nothing to do with the acting — that was the best part of the production.

The cast was made up of only six actors, with each actor playing at least two parts. Maybe it’s because the cast is so small that the chemistry on stage was spot-on.

Most impressive of all was the connection between Genevieve Bozek and Loren Moslin in their roles of Eugenia and Violet, respectively. I’d previously seen three plays here in New Paltz before “Eugenia,” and theirs was definitely the best connection.

Bozek’s Eugenia has a clear tenderness for Moslin’s Violet, who displays a forgiveness for Eugenia that seems so real you can feel it when you’re watching the two. And it’s a nice feeling; it isn’t the kind that hits you like a ton of bricks. Rather, it slowly eases its way in and leaves you leaning in closer, wondering what is going to happen between the two.

While both Bozek and Moslin turned in stunning performances, the other members of the cast shone in their  individual light as well. Brendan  Quinn’s charcter in the past is a horrible person who exposes Eugenia to Violet, but you can’t really hate him because the performance is just too good.

Aside from the acting, the choreography was wonderful. The opening entrances were a bit spastic, but the rest of the dancing and fight scenes were engaging (yeah, one of the fight scenes made my jaw drop. No, I’m not even kidding about this). This play excels in its subtlety, and the small notions and what’s going on in the background bring the entire play to life.

One of the best parts of the show was the score that accompanied, written by Assistant Professor Stephen Kitsakos. It complimented the action of both stories nicely, and never crossed the line of taking too much focus away from the action.

“Eugenia” is absolutely worth the watch. It’s successful in that it’s not only entertaining for the audience, but it makes you think. I’m not one for spoilers, but if you leave the play completely satisfied and without a few questions, you’ll have to go see it again.

3 out of 4 stars