Eurydice at the Hayworth Theatre

In an early scene in Eurydice, Sarah Ruhl’s retelling of the Eurydice myth, we see the title character’s father, who is dead and living in the underworld and desperately trying to communicate with her living daughter, go through the motions of giving her daughter away in marriage.

It is an almost perfectly touching scene. In the living world, Eurydice is about to marry Orpheus. The story is familiar and has been retold in opera, an Academy Award-winning film, and many other incarnations.

Orpheus travels to the underworld with the strictest of admonition not to look back at her on their journey back. He goes to retrieve his wife only to lose her when she calls to him and he turns back to look at her.

But, as the title suggests, the focus of this play is strictly Eurydice and her journey to the underworld to meet up with her father once again.

Ruhl’s “Eurydice” focuses, not so much on Orpheus (Erwin Tuazon), but on the emotional journey that Eurydice (Dina Percia) is faced with upon meeting her deceased father (Trevor H. Olsen).

It would appear that she has been seduced by a Nasty Interesting Man (Clayton Shane Farris) with the promise of a letter drafted by her father as a way to communicate from beyond.

Later, Farris is the Lord of the Underworld, bent on marrying Eurydice against her will. The question posed is, does she really love Orpheus enough to return to the living and eke out a living with a man who is not totally invested in her or does she stay with her father and learn the language of remembering?

Finding out is a journey in itself for those watching this play. Ruhl has infused the classic Greek Myth with offbeat sense of humor and a language which borders on lyrical if not poetic. Percia captures that ethereal quality nicely in her performance.

The set, with breakaway background and red pipes that resemble an underground pipe system, lends itself wonderfully to the atmosphere that the playwright has created.

So much of the visual as well as the sound design (by Adam Phalen) and costumes (Megan MacLean) resembling 1940s film noir adds to the surreal setting of the play and is held together tightly by director Trevor Biship.

Ruhl’s offbeat comedy keeps the play from becoming too syrupy, but it also keeps audiences at an emotional distance from the themes she explores. The stones (played by Leonard Zanders, Luaren Birriel, and Raymond Lee) all serve as a greek chorus strictly for comedic relief but only interact with the characters as echoes of what has already been established.

As for that perfectly touching scene mentioned earlier; it is replayed later in the play with actual father and daughter. It is moments like that which make it a moving piece. But so much of the quirkiness abstracts from it really taking off on that level.

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About Obed Medina
Obed received his BA in Creative Writing from the University of California at Riverside. He has freelanced and volunteered at various theatre companies in Los Angeles since 2002. He launched his own workshop theatre company in 2008 and has produced six original one-act plays and one Off-Broadway hit. Currently, he is living in Ashland, Oregon working on his writing and founder of Collaborative Theatre Project.

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