My Cousin Rachel at Spoleto - Mini-Review

MyCousinRachel_3 The Columbia arts scene has kept us so busy at Jasper this season that we haven't had the time (or need?) to make it down to this year's Spoleto Festival nearly as much as in years past. It's not because there haven't been some exciting events going on down there -- this year's festival roster was as impressive as ever, from the Westminster Choir's El Nino to Hubbard Street Dance Chicago to the upcoming production of the Gregory Maqoma/Vuyani Dance Theatre.

My Cousin Rachel -- Dock Street Theatre

We did make it down to see a matinee of the Gate Theatre's My Cousin Rachel at Charleston's always inspiring Dock Street Theatre. My Cousin Rachel is a romantic-mystery novel written by Daphne Du Maurier in 1951  and adapted for the stage by Joseph O'Connor -- with more than a hint of the macabre added, at least in this interpretation. The play picks up at the part in the novel after which Ambrose, the owner of a Cornish estate has died following an extended health-related stay in Italy. In Florence, Ambrose fell in love with a cousin Rachel who, after his death, travels to Cornwall to pay her respects to Ambrose's adopted heir, Philip, with whom she soon develops an intimate relationship. The conflict in the play centers around trust -- but not the casual kind of trust, rather a life and death kind of trust. There's a beautiful subtlety to this version of the story interspersed with tense scenes that aptly address the misery of doubt. Of particular interest is the use of carnival masks on familiar cast members when Philip is tormented by dreams while in a feverish sleep.

The Gate theatre out of Dublin brings another fine example of their work to the Spoleto Festival in Charleston. We highly recommend you catch My Cousin Rachel before it closes at the end of the week.