Innovative 'Eurydice' hits the spot
Published: Friday, November 6, 2009
Updated: Thursday, January 13, 2011 07:01
This Halloween some students literally found themselves going to the Underworld through Skidmore's production of "Eurydice," written by Sarah Ruhl. During its run, "Eurydice" created a positive buzz around campus and became the perfect complement to this spooky time of year. After seeing the production, set in the intimate Black Box Theater, I understood why it received such glowing reports.
The story of Orpheus and Eurydice has been around for ages. However, Ruhl's script brings complexity to the old myth. Her contemporary piece takes the audience down the rabbit hole in a way that resembles Lewis Carrol's "Alice in Wonderland." In this surrealistic world we are first introduced to the lovers Orpheus (Alexander Frost '10) and Eurydice (Marie Claire Roussel '10).
Ruhl asked that the couple be played "a little too young and a little too in love," which was a dynamic Frost and Roussel captured well. Roussel fully embraced her character and played her with an earnestness that made her absolutely endearing. I appreciated that the cast of "Eurydice" knew the gravity of their lines but spoke with the authenticity of their characters. In doing so they avoided the overly contrived voice that I have encountered frequently in student theater.
Halfway through the second movement, the Lord of the Underworld, Jesse Wood '10, nonchalantly delivered the line, "I grow downward. Like a turnip." This is just one example of Ruhl's use of imagery and the playful nature of the show.
My compliments to Director Carolyn Anderson for her decision to cast Wood as the Lord of the Underworld and a Nasty Interesting Man, both characters he played with gusto. Occasionally I saw a Cheshire cat-like smile on Wood's face, which reiterated the parallel to "Alice in Wonderland."
The production itself moved with elegant ease. The set of the underworld was cool and conte-porary. It resembled a subway station you would not want to be in past dark. Though a challenging task, the show had an elevator that actually rained on cast members, a highlight of the production.
The students who saw the production agreed.
"Really amazing. I thought it was a great interpretation, and they even made it rain in the elevator!" Colton Karnedy '13 said.
The music, which played a crucial role in the show, was appropriate. I especially liked the pairing of Coltrane's "My Favorite Things" with interactions between Eurydice and her father (Christopher Jacobson '10).
Anderson's decision to have the Big Stone character played by two actors (Jeremy Ohringer '13 and Xavier Richards '12) who spoke in unison, was a bold and effective choice. Their dynamic reiterated the eeriness of the stones and the underworld. I would also like to note Molly Bernard '10 for bringing comic relief to the underworld through her interpretation of Little Stone. As Orpheus entered the underworld, the "saddest music" played as green leaves fell from above, a beautiful effect.
The college's faculty also approved of the show. "Skidmore's production of 'Eurydice' nailed our ongoing fascination with the myth, partly through its ingenious set and costumes," Professor Jay Rogoff said.
The underworld set design included bits of 2000-year-old catacombs -- from around when Virgil and Ovid were setting down their versions of the story -- as well as 21st century graffiti and chunks of decades-old plumbing, not to mention that century-old freight elevator.
Similarly, dressing the chorus of Stones not as three rocks but as a pair of ancient Greeks, a Victorian trollop and a modern astronaut, all coated with the dust of the dead, let us think about how and why Eurydice and Orpheus's myth has stayed with us for thousands of years.
The show was overall an engaging success. It captured the beauty of youth caught in a time of flux and the complexity of human relationships. Though tickets were hard to come by, they were well worth fighting for.