Regional/Los Angeles Theater Review: EURYDICE (South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa)

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by Tony Frankel on October 3, 2012

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional

THIS ODD INTERPRETATION, AS WITH ORPHEUS HIMSELF, FAILS TO LEAD US TO THE LAND OF THE LIVING

Pulitzer prize finalist Sarah Ruhl is a playwright known for creating poetic, non-linear contemporary worlds in which people and situations transform on a dime, and joyful moments sometimes dissolve into deep melancholy—or vice versa.

In Eurydice, Ruhl repurposes the Greek myth of the stunningly talented musician Orpheus, whose beautiful young bride has died.  Eurydice may, however, not be lost: if Orpheus leads her out of Hades and back to the land of the Living, the two can be together again.  The only condition: he cannot look back; yet he does, and so loses her again.  Ruhl twists this story to frame a Eurydice torn between strong ties to the past and present, a beloved dead father and a devoted new husband.

Thomas Doos' Stage and Cinema review of SCR's EURYDICE in Coasta MesaIt’s a downer of a story even without Ruhl’s heart-wrenching addition of a lost father looking on from below, and this production drives in the knife of emotional devastation without offering much in the way of comfort or insight.

The play opens with the young lovers, Orpheus and Eurydice, in awkward bathing suits on a bare stage.  They are in love—at least, the dialogue and the way they hold each other implies it—yet something is not quite right between them.  Eurydice (Carmela Corbett) seems to bristle, presumably because Orpheus (a very convincing Alex Knox) is more passionate about music than he is about her.  They get engaged anyway, and the next scene finds us at their wedding, from which a detached Eurydice ducks away to spend moments alone in an alley, where she drinks water from a rusty pipe and talks with A Nasty Interesting Man who looks like he could be a streaker (Tim Cummings).

Timothy Landfield’s performance as Her Father shatters with its honesty.  Tim Cummings’ turns as A Nasty Interesting Man and Lord of the Underworld are fun, strange, and sharp.  The Stones (Patrick Kerr, Michael Manuel, and Bahni Turpin) are a polished, spontaneous trio, and provide welcome, hilariously simple commentary on the scenes at hand.

Thomas Doos' Stage and Cinema review of SCR's EURYDICE in Coasta Mesa

Marc Masterson’s staging is sometimes suggestive of Greek theatre, but combined with Gerard Howland’s beautiful yet extremely minimal set design, and Anne Militello’s abstract lighting, creates archetypes instead of real people that would allow the audience to more deeply engage with the story.  At the production’s best moments, the strong, simple truths of relationships are foregrounded, such as when Eurydice and Orpheus communicate with intense honesty—seemingly for the very first time—just as they are on the verge of being separated forever.  At the worst moments, characters move across the bare stage as though aware they are part of an allegory.

Thomas Doos' Stage and Cinema review of SCR's EURYDICE in Coasta Mesa

photos by Henry DiRocco/SCR and Ben Horak/SCR

Eurydice
South Coast Repertory
655 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa
ends on October 14, 2012
for tickets, call 714.708.5555 visit SCR

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