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May 21, 2013 > Theatre: 'Eurydice' intrigues and captivates

Theatre: 'Eurydice' intrigues and captivates

By Julie Grabowski
Photos By Terry Sullivan

Looking for a different and interesting night out? How about a trip to the Underworld? The Douglas Morrisson Theatre provides an odd and tantalizing journey with Sarah Ruhl's "Eurydice."

Ruhl takes her outline from the ancient Greek myth of lovers, Orpheus and Eurydice: when Eurydice dies on their wedding day, a devastated Orpheus travels to the Underworld to ask Hades to return her to him. Hades agrees on the condition that as the two travel back to the land of the living, Eurydice must follow behind Orpheus and he must not look at her until they have both reached the light. At their journey's end, but alas, a bit too soon, Orpheus turns to look at his beloved, dooming her to a second, final death and sealing their separation.

Ruhl's version adds a twist and further complication in the form of Eurydice's father who is dead and a resident of the Underworld. One of the few who still remember how to read and write, he composes letters to his daughter, but doesn't know how to get them to her. That problem is solved by A Nasty Interesting Man who entices Eurydice away from her wedding day festivities with the promise of one of these letters. The encounter results in an unexpected journey to the Underworld, during which Eurydice loses her memories, presumably from a dip in the Lethe, and arrives unable to understand or communicate in the language of the dead. Her father tutors her in words and memories, reestablishing their lost connection, while Orpheus is now the one writing letters, determined to find his love. At the pull of two worlds and two loves, Eurydice must decide whether to stay in the Underworld with her father, or follow Orpheus back into the world and embark upon a future with him.

"Eurydice" is an intriguing contemplation on connection and communication, past and future, remembering and forgetting, and the difficulties of love, which ultimately forces a choice that results in both gain and loss. Ruhl creates a unique, poetic world where words and language do the heavy lifting, fashioning bonds and memories that make us who we are and steering the course of our lives.

Alisha Ehrlich is a light and child-like Eurydice who moves through the story with a tender interest and openness, handling her words and emotion with an honest fluidity. As a man filled with music and melody, Aby George is unfortunately out of tune as Orpheus; his passions come across as stiff and practiced instead of a seamless, natural poetry of emotion that the language requires. The relationship between Ehrlich and George feels childish and tenuous, not something that would drive a man to the Underworld. The real emotion of the piece is found instead in the interaction between Eurydice and her father, played with elegance and beauty by Tom Reilly.

Davern Wright is fantastically funny and appealing and makes a colorful splash as Lord of the Underworld, a petulant child in short pants and shiny shoes who rules his domain in a top hat with a chin strap and travels by tricycle. The Chorus of Stones comprised of Big Stone Allison Fenner, Little Stone Bessie Zolno, and Loud Stone Pamela Drummer-Williams are a creepy delight and easily score the best costumes, looking like spooky, cast-off circus performers.

Live piano music and sound effects courtesy of sound designer Donald Tieck and Jim Patrick are conducted behind the scenes and add a haunting and moving quality that roots you in the setting. Set designer Michael Locher makes his DMT debut with a punch, fashioning an interesting underworld of rising white roof lines and exposed pipes, a white bathtub set in the middle of a floor patterned in the fashion of ocean waves. The production has several striking visual moments, perhaps the most vivid being the image of Eurydice arriving in the Underworld via a rainy elevator, the doors sliding apart to reveal her huddled under an umbrella clad in a rain slicker and yellow rain boots, clutching a suitcase as rain streams down.

"Eurydice" is an arresting tale, a softly potent experience that lingers long after the gates of the Underworld have closed.

"Eurydice" runs through June 9 at the Douglas Morrisson Theatre. A Saturday matinee will be held on June 1 at 2 p.m. followed by a talkback session with the director and cast. Tickets are $29 for adults, $26 for seniors 60 and over, $21 for students/juniors and TBA members. Discounts are available for KQED members and groups of 10 or more. To purchase tickets or for more information, call (510) 881-6777 or visit

May 16 - June 9
8 p.m. (Sundays at 2 p.m.)
[Saturday, June 1 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.]
Douglas Morrisson Theatre
22311 N. Third St., Hayward
(510) 881-6777
Tickets: $10 - $29

Photo Caption: Aby George as Orpheus and Alisha Ehrlich as Eurydice.

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