‘Eurydice’ re-imagined with grace and music

“Eurydice” is a dance, almost a ballet, as much as it is a drama. It flows through three movements uninterrupted by an intermission, yet doesn’t feel long because of the movement on the stage as well as in the story.

This is director Joshua Robinson’s first production at Southwestern College, and it is a deeply moving  experience.

Do you know the Greek myth of Eurydice Jessica Burk) and Orpheus (Maya Damron), the greatest musician ever? They fall in love and marry; she dies on their wedding night and goes to Hades. Orpheus, whose music can make stones cry, goes there looking for her. The god of the underworld says she can return with Orpheus as long as he does not look back to see if she is still behind him as they leave. Inevitably, he looks back and she is lost forever.

Ruyl changed some of the details — and the focus — of the story, but its tragedy remains. Eurydice seems very young and unworldly. She deeply misses her dead father (Whit Emerson). She loves books, as he has taught her. Orpheus loves her but his life is music. “What are you thinking about?” she asks him. He quickly says, “Music,” then “You.” 

When she meets up with her father in the underworld, the reunion is joyous. She still thinks about Orpheus, but he is further and further away and less important to her. The father-daughter relationship may seem incestuous, but it doesn’t really feel that way. Eurydice seems so young, and her father treats her like she is even younger, remembering and reminding her of how it was when he was still on Earth with her.

The Lord of the Underworld (Jamieson Campo), who tricks Eurydice into dying because he desires her, is powerless in the face of her disinterest. 

The stones, the play’s chorus (Raynee Case, Katie Miller, Telara Day , Jennifer Warren and Elizabeth Santana), are by turns complaining and self-regarding and sad. They reconfigure themselves often, in ways never seen on Earth (except maybe in a landslide or by the ocean). Each stone is individualized by costume, though they speak with one voice. Their costumes emphasize their movements. They seem like lines being drawn on a large canvas.

Eurydice’s father is dressed as a businessman, as though he died on his way home from work. But he is literate and joyful and loves to dance, belying the drudgery of the costume. 

Eurydice’s costumes are those of a young woman with a sexy flair, yet she seems unaware of that sexiness.

Orpheus, the musician, seems trapped in the world in his costume — a kind of suit that doesn’t fit very well and doesn’t do much to promote his image as a performer. The suit looks like it imprisons him and his music.

The set is so open it makes the Little Theatre seem much bigger than it is. It also enables the cast to move freely. The way out gives the play a second level, which further enhances the space.

One of the best parts of the show is the amazing score played throughout. Written and performed by Aidan Wells Filbert especially for this production, it fills the theatre with sound that is never intrusive but adds to the atmosphere and gives us a deeper feeling for what is happening. It does what Orpheus does with his music.

This is my first experience with Ruhl’s play, and I can’t recommend it enough. Don’t let your prejudices toward non-traditional theatre get in the way of your getting into this play. There’s so much to see and feel in it. 

It’s onstage tonight at 7:30 and at 2 Sunday afternoon at the Helen Graham Little Theatre in the basement of Christy Hall on the Southwestern campus. Tickets are available at the door.

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