The term ‘it’s all Greek to me’ had to come from somewhere, right? Even with my ability to recognize such names as Zeus and Hades (thanks to Percy Jackson) a play with characters whose origins date back to 29 B.C.E. intimidates me to no end. The Grand Theatre has thankfully selected a script that makes for a stunning production. While the acting had glorious moments, it was the writing that truly conveyed the darkness of forgetting, fear, and hell alongside the light of love, music, and the power of the word.
The Grand Theater is now playing the regional premier of Eurydice. From American playwright, Sarah Ruhl, a MacArthur Fellowship recipient and Pulitzer Prize finalist (in 2005 for her play The Clean House), comes this new modern re-telling of the Greek myth which opened off-Broadway in 2007.
The play follows Eurydice, daughter of Apollo and her husband Orpheus. Eurydice dies on their wedding day and Orpheus must travel to the Underworld in and attempt to bring her back. He is granted permission on one condition; he must not look at her until they have safely left the Underworld. However, as they reach the upper world, he can resist no longer and he turns to see her. She then disappears forever.
Ruhl’s telling is from Eurydice’s (Stephanie Ogden) perspective and is focused on her choice to be reunited with Orpheus (Scott Bahlmann) or to stay in the Underworld with her already deceased Father (Stephen Williams). The cast also includes “ The Stones,” played by Holly Braithwaite (Loud Stone), Joe Crnich (Big Stone), Ileana Kovalskaya (Little Stone) and Man, presumably Hades, played by Dan Larrinaga.
In the Director’s note, Richard Scott draws similarities between this show, Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Not only do these stories relate in their eerie, other-world feeling, I would go on to say that Eurydice, Dorothy, and Alice are all young, innocent girls who find themselves in a strange world with odd-behaving people and some threatening, not-so-nice characters.
The set (Kevin Myhre) is of an old, rusty and abandoned swimming pool area—the sound of constant dripping water echoes throughout the show. The lighting (Rodney Elwood) is dim with dull spotlights on the characters, often casting dramatic and eerie shadows. From the somersaulting and cartwheeling Stones to the red-silhouetted figure of Orpheus as he makes his way to Hades, the entire show is beautifully constructed.
As for the music, at times it was downright creepy. Picture The Scream by Edvard Munch and you may be able to taste the emotions it stirred—so well done.
There were some brilliant moments in acting. The Stones delivered nonsensical riddles in unison, and maintained stoic performances. Dan Larrinaga as the Man was a wonderful mix between Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and King Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar. Stephen Williams as Father was warm and loving. When Williams delivers the line “How does a person remember to forget?” he wraps the power of the entire show into that single statement. Is it better to become a Stone without feeling and memory, or is it better to suffer sadness for eternity remembering love and happiness? Is it the remembering or forgetting that equates to hell?
The beginning of the show was rough. The love story between the main characters felt staged. Only after they were separated did their love seem real. I suspect the change had more to do with the writing rather than their ability to connect. However, Bahlmann as Orpheus was strong and had a wonderful stage voice. He certainly excelled at the dramatics, but the laid back, at-ease Orpheus didn’t work.
I struggled with Ogden as Eurydice until about half way through. I couldn’t decide if the character was supposed to be so poised, collected, and controlled or if I just wasn’t getting any emotion out of her. According to the playbill, she is a trained classical ballerina and I think that may have come through tonight.
When Ogden played off Larrinaga, she seemed to let her guard down. At moments, with Williams, I saw her shoulders drop and relax a little. When she did this I saw the emotions play on her face and I felt her connection with Eurydice. Of my three favorite moments, she was in two of them—the scene where she writes the letter to her husband’s next wife was fantastic. I found myself leaning forward in my chair, holding my breath—it was stunning. Stronger even was the final scene with Bahlmann. The elevator and letter were truly jarring, inspired and my favorite moment.
While I may never count this in my top ten, I will certainly remember it. I have seen Anything Goes a half-a-dozen times and couldn’t tell you what it’s about for the life of me. This show made an impression. It’s a tragedy; it’s not a happy show; it makes you feel; it challenges and confuses you at times. I have heard that true art is not always art that makes you happy. Rather it is something that makes you feels something. Well, I felt! I highly recommend this show to anyone with a flare for the dramatic, a taste for darkness, and the ability to see a silver lining. It is beautifully written and the direction, staging, and acting certainly pull everything together.
Eurydice plays through March 20 (Mon-Sat) at 7:30 PM with a matinee at 2 PM on Saturdays. The show runs just over 90 minutes with no intermission. Performances take place in The Grand Theatre located at 1575 South State Street in Salt Lake City. Tickets are $8-24 and are available by phone at (801) 957-3322 or online at The-Grand.org.
What did you think of the show?
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