REVIEW: 'Eurydice' by Sarah Ruhl at Studio Theatre

I always thought the ‘Orpheus’ myth was pretty cheesy stuff.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a romantic guy; the idea of a singer going down to hell and impressing the demons so much with his music that they’re moved to let him take his beloved back to the world of the living sounds pretty cool.

But the ending, which I will presume is known to most people who’ve finished grade school, seemed pretty cheesy – though perhaps, as one of the ancient, archetypal Greek tragedies, that the story is over-the-top by contemporary standards should hardly be surprising.

That’s why inventive playwright and deserved McArthur Fellowship (‘Genius’) Award recipient Sarah Ruhl’s nuanced reinvention of this much-meditated-upon story is such a treat.

Moving without being sad, Ruhl modernizes the myth not through an overabundance of contemporary references – the play is staged in modern dress but could be set anytime in the post-industrial (or at least, the post-Cole Porter) world – but by opening up the core duo’s personas. Crucially, Ruhl also adds a third dimension for exploring love and loss in the figure of Eurydice’s father.

While Ruhl has gone on to author many acclaimed plays in the near-decade since she wrote this one, but Eurydice, which originally did so much to put her on the theatrical map, continues to grow in stature and multi-faceted richness by the year.

And in Studio Theatre’s hands, Ruhl’s masterpiece truly shines. Designer Jennifer Goodman’s production is undoubtedly technically complex and certainly aesthetically engaging, but working in concert with Dave Horak’s skilled direction it enhances without overwhelming the ensemble’s resonantly lyrical performances.

Especially, Beth Graham carries the title role with a fleet pathos that seems to suit her, and Michael Peng, through both words and gestures, expresses so much of the feeling at the core of the myth’s retelling here.

Horak and Goodman’s Eurydice at Studio Theatre is a masterful rendition of what is already shaping up to be a modern classic. If you believe at all in the power of theatre to tackle the most relevant and personal of issues in a compelling yet accessible way – or, for that matter, you are looking for proof – look no farther than this production.

more in Theatre Review     |     posted Sep 25th, 2010 at 10:49pm     

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