Sarah Ruhl’s Melancholy Play: A Contemporary Farce is nutty by design. “I’m sure the show sounds really odd,” says Nick Martin. “But the theme of it is everyone coming together to save Francis, a character who turns into an almond.”
Martin, who directed the current production at Constellation Theatre, calls Ruhl’s 2002 work “a perfect over-the-top exploration of what melancholy is. At the end of the day, it’s just a lovely little play about people coming together to take care of the ones that they love…. Hopefully you walk out with a renewed sense of optimism and hope about the human connection.”
Last fall, Martin recommended the play for the company’s upcoming season, without any expectation he would actually get the chance to direct it. “I was asked specifically for any smaller-cast comedies that I thought might be a good fit for Constellation,” he says. I’ve loved Melancholy Play for a very long time, so I brought that to the table.”
Ultimately, the stars aligned for the 27-year-old Virginia native to step up and take the show’s helm. He’s in charge of just five actors, plus cellist Kate Rears Burgman. Billie Krishawn leads the cast as Tilly, a beautifully sad character whom everyone falls for — some, such as lesbian Francis, to the point of becoming an almond, or “so small that you could curl up into the palm of your lover’s hand.”
As it happens, Martin directed Krishawn in the starring role of a commissioned production at this year’s Capital Fringe. Inspired by Greek mythology, Stephen Spotswood’s Andromeda Breaks was “vaguely Southern Gothic and very full of tension and very little language and just big, bold, magical storytelling.”
Krishawn, he notes, went from that production “to this roller coaster of broad emotional exploration and really specific physical comedy. I’m convinced she can do anything.”
Melancholy Play runs to Sept. 2 at the Source Theatre, 1835 14th St. NW. Tickets are $19 to $45. Call 202-204-7741 or visit constellationtheatre.org.