Do you imagine Elysian Fields, laughter and love in your after life? Are you looking forward to crossing the rainbow bridge to greet all your beloved and not forgotten furry friends? Then stay away from this depiction of the afterlife. A Noise Within’s production of “Eurydice” has its merits, but the play is a downer with creepy sexist undertones.
If you need to brush up on your mythology, Eurydice was the wife of a musician named Orpheus. When she died, Orpheus lamented to sweetly that the lord of Hades agreed to let Orpheus take Eurydice back to the land of the living. There was one condition–he must not look back. Of course, in a moment of doubt, Orpheus does turn back for just a glance and his love is lost to him, leaving in a wisp of fog and a cry of remorse.
In this intermissionless adaptation, we’re in modern times, relatively so. Think 1950s. Eurydice (Jules Willcox) is in a belly-button covering two piece–bright red with white polka dots. Orpheus (Graham Sibley) is in long plaid board shorts. He’s thinking music; she’s thinking books. Their conversation is utterly banal. They find each other’s interests, “interesting.” They are in love.
Eurydice is apparently an orphan. Her father (Geoff Elliott) resides in the underworld and he held his breath and wasn’t properly baptized in the waters of forgetfulness. As a result, he remembers his beloved daughter (but not his wife) and writes to her. The father’s monologue is funny and touching, perhaps the most amusing part of the whole piece.
What follows is a wedding of Eurydice and Orpheus in the human world that is plagued by the devil. At least this devil and lord of Hades is well-dressed–billed as the Nasty Interesting Man (Ryan Vincent Anderson), but in a twist that might remind one of another myth–the abduction of Persephone–the Lord of the Underworld attempts to seduce Eurydice and failing still gets her to his domain. On arrival, Eurydice isn’t aware she is dead and meets her father who helps her remember the life on land and love–at least the comfort of fatherly love which is like sitting under the shade of a tree. Romantic love is like sitting under the shade of a tree…naked.
In Hades, there is a group of three blue stones who function as a Greek chorus (Kelly Ehlert (Loud Stone), Abigail Marks (Big Stone), and Jessie Losch (Little Stone) ).
Now we have the Electra complex (per Jung) although I’m not clear on what one should say about a father who encourages such dependence. So our poor Electra has the sinister attention of the lord of darkness, her father and Orpheus.
Although the program notes inform us that the playwright Sarah Ruhl was inspired by her father’s death from cancer in 1994 and that she has a clear feminist voice, that’s not what you come away with. Instead of that, the voice I heard was of a girl filled with regret and longing for her father, wishing to meet him, but unsure that their reunion in the afterlife would be pleasing.
As director, Elliott could tighten up the action and quicken the pace. Although Eurydice ends up in her father’s arms, blessed with forgetfulness, the reason for continued existence in a land where one remembers nothing and does nothing isn’t adequately explained except for women being playthings for the devil. Not quite enough for me but perhaps this version of Eurydice will satisfy an existentialist fantasy of the hereafter. “Eurydice” continues at A Noise Within until 19 May 2013. For tickets and more information, go to ANoiseWithin.org.