A group of people stand and sit together in black and white. None of them are looking at each other directly.

A Portrait of Humor and Sadness in The Melancholy Play

Performance & Theatre

The Melancholy Play
Wasatch Theater Company

March 23- March 26, 2023
Wednesday-Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday, 2:00 p.m & 7:30 p.m.

Wasatch Theatre Company presents a charming and eccentric look at mental health at the Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center with the latest show in their season, The Melancholy Play by Sarah Ruhl

A bank teller named Tilly (Ariana Farber) journeys to find happiness as she experiences deep melancholy—not sadness, but melancholy. The show introduces us to a therapist from a non-specified foreign country (Barett Ogden), a tailor named Frank (Amona Faatu), a physicist turned hairdresser named Frances (Sam Torres) and Frances’s British partner, Joann (Ashley Wilkinson). Each of these characters feel drawn to Tilly’s profound, “sexy” melancholy and fall deeply in love with her. That, however, completely changes when Tilly embraces their love and remarkably begins to feel happy again. 

As characters feel driven away by Tilly’s sunshine, they begin to change physically and mentally. Some are driven into their own state of melancholy and some turn into almonds. Yes, almonds—the nut.

The Melancholy Play wonders whether we fetishize those who are sad to make ourselves feel better and whether or not we actually do enough for those who are suffering from some form of depression. This forces one to evaluate their own ability to support those around them and themselves. In the most impactful part of the show, Tilly and her new friends decide to rescue their almond-turned friend (they literally turn into an almond), and Tilly in her newfound happiness addresses the audience, saying that when someone is lost and in a deep state of sadness, it is not enough to tell them to seek medical help or ask how they are. You have to physically support them and be in the same space as they are.  

The love and effort put into this show was clear. Every actor knew their character and painted a vivid portrait of their sadness, creating something that felt fun, impactful and honest. This topic isn’t an easy one, and if put into the wrong hands the play would be easy to dislike. Playwright Sarah Ruhl is known for creating avant-garde works about emotion and transformation, often using aspects of fantasy and magic. This is demonstrated by her work in How to Transcend a Happy Marriage and Eurydice. Director Morag Shepherd understands this and completely embraces it, which is evident in the character direction, use of aerial silks and the artful framing of every moment. 

Truly this show has been the highlight of Wasatch’s season. The Melancholy Play was funny and well-designed, and it portrayed mental health, something our society knows all too well, with hope that it can get better. –Payton Rhyan Wright

Read more on local theater productions:
Hairy & Sherri @ SLAC: Sucker Punching the Myth of the Well-Intentioned Ally
A Distinct Society: Love, Loss and Understanding