“Till death do we part” just doesn’t seem to cut it for those inseparable couples whose love is enduring. Those dwelling in the realm of Greek mythology, possessive of the power to navigate life and death, are especially indivisible.
Eurydice explores the story of a couple exemplary of these criteria—and a rather famous one at that. Sarah Ruhl penned the work in 2003, drawing inspiration from both the classical myth of Orpheus and her own experience with the passing of her father. The Greek tale encompasses the world’s greatest musician Orpheus trekking down to the underworld to rescue his bride Eurydice who died on their wedding night, a mission which ultimately fails. Ruhl’s unique approach to the myth includes a focus on the traditionally underdeveloped character of Eurydice, who surveys her emotional struggles with the loss of her father—and then, her own life—while bringing in contemporary, and, at times, eerie undertones.
Director Grace Fucci, MCAS ’17, accentuates such undertones with her spin on Eurydice, which played in the Bonn Studio from Feb. 16 to 18 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 19 at 2 p.m.
Hauntingly illuminated by delicate strings of lightbulbs and musical notes, the stage itself intrigued the audience, with actors meandering through the minimalistic, harp-like set structures. The play opens by introducing the audience to the whimsical romanticism that permeates the relationship of Eurydice (Lauren Strauss, MCAS ’18) and Orpheus (Brett Murphy, MCAS ’18). Their idealistic frolicking and joyous marital engagement soon evaporated with a shift into the underworld, where Eurydice’s father (Daniel Saillant, MCAS ’20) still grasps onto shreds of memories from his lifetime. He continues to watch over his daughter and attempts to contact her through letters she has yet to receive.
This chain is broken, however, when an interesting man (Alex O’Connor, MCAS ’20) lures Eurydice to his incomprehensibly high apartment during her wedding celebration on the pretense that he possesses a letter from her deceased father addressed to her. When his act of kindness turns out to be malevolent, she tries to escape with the letter but trips and descends out of the apartment to her death.
Three unfriendly, albeit comedically-synced, stones (Adrienne Vanderhooft, MCAS ’20; Lena Hymel, MCAS ’20; Nicholas Swancott, MCAS ’19) greet Eurydice upon her entrance into the underworld after her memory has been wiped—as the dead are not allowed to remember their life . This prompts issues when her father welcomes her but she cannot remember his existence. The confusion relents when Eurydice eventually has a breakthrough in remembering Orpheus, helping her overcome her amnesia.
Throughout the show, Eurydice and her father strengthen their bond and work to acclimate Eurydice to the afterlife. Intermittently, Orpheus attempts to reach her through letters, a book, and music.
[aesop_gallery id=”130030″ revealfx=”off”]
Orpheus then decides that he cannot be without his true love any longer. He devises a plan to hold a singular musical note through a straw in his sleep. In doing so, he arrives in the underworld as a living human. He can only bring Eurydice back to the living with him on one condition—he cannot look back and see her following him up.
Eurydice willfully calls Orpheus’ name as she steps behind him, causing him to turn around. Both deliver emotional addresses to each other, before turning away from each other and parting, with Eurydice walking back to her father and Orpheus journeying back to life alone.
While Eurydice surrendered life with Orpheus for time with her father, little did she know his sadness in losing her yet again drove him to wipe his memory completely. Eurydice sees no other solution but to do the same, especially since the exquisitely devious lord of the underworld (Alex O’Connor, MCAS ’20) would have forced her to wed him otherwise. The tragedy concludes with a later-perished Orpheus observing a sleeping Eurydice, unaware of who she is.
Each intricacy of Eurydice, from its powerful performances to its subtly suggestive light, costume, and sound design, culminated in a splendidly eccentric yet poignant piece of art. While Strauss emboldened Eurydice with the intelligence, strength, and contrasting tenderness absent from the original myth, humanizing the character, O’Connor animated his roles with a fervor that nearly danced in his eyes. Every actor presented capabilities suited to their characters, shaping a dynamic ensemble. Details saturated the entire play with honesty, with a wedding dress crafted from book pages to capture Eurydice’s love of reading and the echoey crackling of the underworld.
In her director’s note, Fucci declared, “Eurydice is a bold show.” It is this boldness that motivated each aspect of the production and undoubtedly captured each member of the audience each night. Given its content, Eurydice brings a considerable amount of power to the phrase “bold as love.”
Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor