Scripter Sarah Ruhl resets Ovid’s “Orpheus and Eurydice” in modern times and imaginatively examines it from the point of view of the deceased bride rather than that of her grieving husband. Eurydice’s journey through life and death becomes a thought-provoking exploration of a callow young woman’s discovery of her own essence even as she is losing it. Helmer John Lange guides the excellent Circle X ensemble through the contrasting yearnings of souls residing in the land of the living and those existing in the land of the dead.
Rather than elevate the minor (if well-chronicled) tale of the musically gifted Orpheus (Tim Wright) and his travels to the Underworld in search of his intended bride, Ruhl adds some intriguing thematic elements to the mix. She focuses the action on Eurydice (Kelly Brady), who becomes happily reunited with her deceased father (John Getz) in the Land of the Dead, setting up an emotional conflict when Orpheus comes to rescue her.
Further complicating the proceedings are the Lord of the Underworld (Jeff Ricketts), who wants Eurydice for his bride, and a chorus of stones (Thia Stephan, Joe Tyler Gold, Doug Sutherland) who want her to conform to her new status.
Brady is endearing as the immature bride who knows all too well that she is a mere satellite to her transcendently gifted musician husband. She makes viable Eurydice’s doubting of her own worth, setting up her confused state of mind as she allows herself to be lured to the penthouse of a nefarious, smooth-talking neighbor (Ricketts), where she falls from a window to her death. After she descends to the underworld by elevator, Brady’s Eurydice gives ample proof she is as unprepared for death as she was for life.
The most intriguing element of the production is the presence of Eurydice’s father, played with introspective grace by Getz. Long deceased, the father has so yearned to be part of his daughter’s life that his mental energies have transcended the usual limitations of death. One entertaining scene has the underworld-dwelling father dancing the swing in perfect unison to Eurydice and Orpheus during their wedding-day reception.
But the most rewarding aspect of Ruhl’s legiter is the rapport established between father and daughter as he attempts in death to give her the emotional support that he couldn’t provide in life. Unfortunately, this new focus reduces Orpheus (performed with great emotional veracity by Wright) to the status of an also-ran.
When the inevitability of oblivion finally overcomes all participants, Eurydice’s loss of her father is far more potent than the loss of her husband.
Ricketts is deliciously rapacious as the horny little devil who courts Eurydice from the seat of his tricycle.
Also entertaining are the Greek chorus trio of relentlessly disapproving stones, who seem to have been British music hall buskers when their living personas trod the earth.
Complementing the proceedings are the evocative, surrealistic sets and lighting of Brian Sidney Bembridge.