On November 22, I went to see Karen Zacarias's play LEGACY OF LIGHT directed by Ann Wilkinson at Central College. This extraordinary script of "magical realism" combines historical and fictional characters. On a single stage, with a minimum of furniture moved flawlessly about by silent crewmembers, a 1749 French drawing room is transformed to a modern New Jersey apartment, a family home on the brink of foreclosure, a lecture hall, and a heavenly setting of the afterworld. It is all done so seamlessly that the audience is caught up in the spell.
The two major actors, Jacob Anderson and Emma Simmons, portray writer and philosopher Francois-Marie Arouet (Voltaire) and Emilie du Chatelet, Voltaire's mistress and intellectual partner. Costumed in 18th century splendor, they bring the audience into the past and present with grace. Emilie is a mathematician, physicist, and author during an age when women were not permitted to follow such pursuits. Pregnant at age forty-two, she accepts that her death will likely come in childbirth. She works to finish her translations and prepare her young daughter for a life without a mother.
The other actors each play two different roles, one from the 18th century story, and one from the present day. Dionne Riley plays Olivia, a twenty-first century astronomer who with her husband Peter (Griffin Hammel) wants to start a family despite being a barren cancer survivor. They hire Millie (Brandie Heims) to be the surrogate mother of the baby they desire. Millie's brother Lewis (Clifton Antoine) does not want her to do this, but they are in debt and need the money.
Babies are born. Emilie survives childbirth only to die within a few days from infection. Yet she is present in today's world to allay the fears of the modern family.
The playwright, the director, and the excellent cast and crew made this play going experience extraordinary. A treatise on light and love, Emilie's lesson for us all is most appropriate.
“Everything changes, but nothing is lost- ever.”
Congratulations to Theater Central for an unforgettable evening.