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STEWART, Farewell to Eden Options · View
Nan McCulloch
Posted: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 10:26:19 PM

Rank: AML Member

Joined: 10/27/2007
Posts: 31
Points: 93
Location: Draper, UT
Reviewed by Nan Parkinson McCulloch

It is said that we all have our Gethsemane. Could it be then, that we also have our Garden of Eden?
I lived in The Garden of Eden. It was called Waterwood, a resort situated in the southeast Texas piney woods near the big thicket area. I was a divorce survivor and my new husband had spent 11 years lovingly taking care of his former wife who had MS. We lived blissfully in our Eden for 10 years.

Georgiana Highett had a far different garden of Eden. High born upper class intellectuals, she and her siblings Thomas and Catherine lived in 1840 Victorian England. They had been raised under most fortunate circumstance. As for wealth and social standing there was nothing lacking. Due to family prominence and important connections Georgiana and Catherine were allowed to take their education at a prestigious boys school. Because of her father's progressive nature and her considerable intellect, Georgiana was raised with no limitations. She became a strong, capable woman. She was also vain, arrogant and prideful. I have come to expect Stewart's heroines to be feminists. That seems to be a hallmark in most of his plays.

The English caste system was a prevailing theme. After a period of mourning for the death of their father, the Highetts are visited by good and evil, a childhood friend and a local publisher. Then to further complicate their lives two street preachers from America join the mix. Two dress makers, a treasured family friend and a beloved housekeeper round out the ensemble. The plot line is far from predictable. Much is not as it seems and that makes for a fascinating story. Director Kathryn Little has set a very good pace throughout. There was no trouble navigating the scenes. If the pace had lagged, it would have been disastrous for this play. The characters were appealing and real. Thomas was a bit of a caricature, but he was lots of fun so I am ambiguous about his performance. Kathryn directed with insight and sensitivity. She had a great deal to do with the excellent acting. Denison, McCallister, Legler, Minson and Omer were strong actors. Nebeker and Woodworth did a very good job. I liked Woodworth's mangled cliches. Tanika Little gave a very moving performance.

Another hallmark of Stewart's plays is his brilliant dialogue. No one does dialogue like Mahonri. I have compared him to Wilde and Shaw. I saw the play on Monday night and I was so taken with the conversation that I asked for a script. I was afraid I might have missed something. This play was not only a joy to behold, but a marvelous read. I enjoy reading clever words of wisdom like these quotes from an extortionist, "You have my future and I have your past" and "The scent was always there, I just uncovered it." Farewell to Eden is intelligent and extremely well-written. The set was good and the costumes were stunning.

As a member of the Association for Mormon Letters I can tell you that writing the great cross-over work makes the short list in our daily on-line discussions. Farewell to Eden will have widespread appeal for mainstream audiences and for Mormons, though it is most certainly not a Mormon play. It is a morality play without being didactic. There were no last minute conversions or declarations of love, no happy endings tied up with pretty bows and no forever afters into the sunset. Thoroughly Mormon Mahonri has written a fine cross-over piece.

What: Farewell to Eden
written by Mahonri Stewart
directed by Kathryn Little
When: Friday, Saturday and Monday
Jan. 22, 23, 25
7:30 p.m. evenings
2:30 Saturday Matinee
Where: Provo Theatre
105 East 100 North
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