Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: JUNE 25, 2010
Perhaps you remember the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Tragically, on the day of their wedding, she dies. And he, a celebrated musician flung into despair and the depths of grief, decides to follow her into the Underworld and bring her back. His mournful music makes the gods weep, and they allow him retrieve his beloved bride – on one condition. That he walk out ahead of her and not turn back until he reaches the upper world. At the last moment, just before they arrive, he turns to look at her — and she’s gone, lost to him forever. The story, which inspired the Greeks and Romans and myriad artists since ancient times, is always told from the perspective of Orpheus. But acclaimed playwright Sarah Ruhl , two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, had a different idea.
“Eurydice” shows not only the beautiful young woman’s experience of her sad story, but adds another layer of love, grief and loss. In the Underworld, Eurydice re-encounters her father, who’d died when she was young. Ruhl had lost her own dad at an early age, and the sorrow that stayed with her gave rise to the play, which premiered in 2003. It’s a lovely, lyrical piece, and Moxie Theatre is giving it a stunning production.
The design work is outstanding. The set features a private rain-shower, a pop-up room made of rope, and messages that are sent, and occasionally received, from the living world above to Hades below. Thoroughly magical and whimsical, as are the costumes and makeup, also designed by the imaginative Jennifer Brawn Gittings. There’s an often-amusing but generally disapproving Chorus of Stones in the Underworld, and the God of that nether region is a sometimes goofy, sometimes menacing Man/Child. Orpheus is obsessed with his music, but he does love his Eurydice. And she, on the cusp of womanhood, is torn between father and husband, not sure whether to stay or go, to regress or grow up, to remember or forget. It’s a profound and affecting story, layered with myth and symbolism, gorgeous imagery and Freudian overtones.
The masterful director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg has helped a wonderful cast clarify the meaning and mine the depths of emotion. Jennifer Eve Thorn’s Eurydice is so naïve, so self-centered at the outset, so tender, loving and lost later on. Todd Blakesley is admirably gentle and patient as her father; and as the god of the Underworld, Max Macke toggles effectively between juvenile and sinister. The play is a gorgeous study of grief and loss, language and relationship, life and death. The production is deep and rich, thought-provoking and satisfying — and guaranteed to break your heart.
“Eurydice” runs through June 27, at Moxie Theatre near SDSU.
©2010 PAT LAUNER