Round House Theatre's Eurydice

Sure, it is a story we all know. Orpheus was a great musician. He was so in love with his wife Eurydice, that when she died, he followed her to the underworld in order to bring her back. Pluto was so touched by his music that he released Eurydice – on one condition: that on their journey back to Earth, Orpheus could never turn around to see if she was actually following him. We all know what happens, but when re-imagined by Sarah Ruhl with her own brand of whimsy, surrealism, and magic, the story is anything by staid.

Ruhl sets the story in the modern day, and looks at it from the female perspective. Eurydice is a woman who is deeply in love with Orpheus, but whose soul is continually reaching for something more. She loves interesting books, interesting thoughts, and interesting people. Despite the love she’s found, she still feels misunderstood. Jenna Sokolowski never manages to achieve the depth this suggests. She also feels a bit forced throughout the show, with a tendency to pause after the third word in every sentence.

Eurydice’s natural curiosity causes her to follow an Interesting Man (Mitchell H├ębert) home. We know it’s a bad idea, she knows it’s a bad idea, but he claims to have a letter from her father, who has been dead for many years. The visit ends in her death. Eurydice journeys to the underworld where she meets the three stones (KenYatta Rogers, Linden Tailor, and Susan Lynskey) who serve as a sort of Greek chorus and try to convince Eurydice to follow the rules of the underworld. Director Derek Goldman and costumer Kathleen Geldard have chosen to render the stones as three overgrown dolls or clowns. The clothing and the performances are bright and bold, but I’m not sure the choice serves the play. First of all, they are always shushing everyone and trying to get Eurydice to be quiet – though their own clothing is really quite loud. There isn’t anything stonelike about them, and they are completely lacking any threatening quality, which is a mistake. We are in the underworld after all.

Eurydice also meets her father (Harry A Winter, in a touching performance). She doesn’t know it’s her father, having passed through the river of forgetfulness, but her father takes the time (after all, they have plenty of it) to remind her. This is the tragic punch that Ruhl adds to the story – after finding her father, Eurydice is torn by having to leave him in order to return to Orpheus.

Ruhl’s play is a fantastic piece of writing. She manages to create tension and emotion in a story we already know. You know what will happen, but you so want it to turn out differently. Goldman’s production isn’t quite able to meet the soaring heights of Ruhl’s poetry. It is weighed down some by the acting, and some by the creative choices. Clint Ramos’ scenic design surrounds the stage in scaffolding, which just feels too heavy for this magical tale. Still, the play is so beautiful that the audience is still given an enjoyable and – interesting night at the theatre.

3 stars
through March 11th

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