ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Review
In Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice the inexorable story of Orpheus and Eurydice becomes the story of a trio. Ruhl has added Eurydice's dead father to her tale. Declining to write the dialogue of "normal" psychological realism, she employs highly self conscious language to approach her truths. The stripped down language surprises, even as it walks on the precious side. And in attempting something authentic and admirable with theater, the playwright presumes on the audience's patience.
Speaking purely in terms of staging, I don't think it gets much better than this. Director Blanka Zizka and the design team she has assembled at the Wilma Theater offer an optimal staging of a singular vision with unparalleled aural-visual integration. Creating this sort of thing is Zizka's métier. It's as if the characters have wandered into a Magritte/Calder art installation and become part of the composition. The broad and spare arrangement of elements: red balloons against blue ground, ultra even lighting --and a river runs through it-- is enhanced by a rich score of vocalizations, intervals, singing, bass and cello.
A highpoint is the entry of Orpheus into the underworld. Dramatically backlit by smooth gold light, he hauntingly sings Eurydice's name in some subliminal intersection of Keanu Reeves in The Matrix and Richard Strauss's Elektra.
The acting, non-naturalistic by both playwright's devising and director's design, banishes fluidity as the lovers speak in the short cadences of talking-once-removed. Eurydice (Merritt Janson) and Orpheus (Ben Huber), therefore, are distanced from the audience. The father, the most sympathetic character in this play of forgetting and remembering, is played with fine artistry by Stephen Novelli. The Lord of the Underworld (Trini Sandoval) and the three Stones are humorous, thank goodness.
A play consumes a certain amount of space and time. In the Wilma production the space is a brilliantly realized, pristine underworldly vision. But playwright Ruhl is perhaps even more concerned with addressing the dimension of time, and this work demands of its audience a willingness to just abide while characters perform time-consuming tasks. If, however, audience members do not experience time as Ruhl intends, they may find it squandered in these patience-taxing, long spaces of experientially-intended waiting. The 90 minute performance, as brilliant as the concept, realization, and particular moments may be, plays like hours.