‘Eurydice’ confounds, entices audiences

By Sharon Bayantemur
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Whether it’s a creative use of string to serve as a makeshift wedding ring or unnatural sounding dialogue at the beginning of the play, “Eurydice” has its ups and downs. Its theme of ambiguity is established early in the play when Orpheus describes a song he wrote as “interesting or not interesting. It just is.”

The Princeton Summer Theatre’s production, written by Sarah Ruhl, is running from Aug. 6-16 at the Hamilton Murray Theater. It’s a modern take on an ancient Greek myth in which a half-mortal, Orpheus, enters the underworld to save the woman he loves. This version was centered on Eurydice instead of Orpheus and how he is able to charm people around him with his music.

Right after Eurydice and Orpheus get married, Eurydice dies by falling off the roof of a skyscraper. She ends up in the underworld where she sees her father, who helps her remember her life before she died. Orpheus finds a way to get to the underworld to bring back Eurydice, but Eurydice doesn’t want to return to the world of the living. When she comes back, she finds her father has jumped into the river of forgetfulness. What happens next is a classic Greek tragedy reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet.

Before I saw the play, I had never heard of the story before. In the beginning, the dialogue seemed unnatural — it sounded more like a monologue than a dialogue. The main characters, Orpheus and Eurydice, found a strange middle ground between addressing each other and the audience. The dialogue was mechanical and choppy, as if the actors hadn’t fully become one with the characters they were playing. As Orpheus’ infatuation with Eurydice becomes clear, the dialogue gets more interactive rather than a recitation of the script.

Some of the plot points, however, seemed to come out of left field. There on the beach Orpheus decides, seemingly spontaneously, to propose to Eurydice with a string he ties to her finger. This is the first of many plot twists in the play that kept me confused yet enticed until the very end. One such instance was when Orpheus transported himself into the underworld via a straw.

The stage dynamics were amazing. For instance, as Orpheus’s relationship with Eurydice takes a complicated turn he briefly becomes the center of attention. The live music, performed by cellist Wren Murray, is fantastic because it sets up the framework and the mood of the play. It stitches together the acting and emotion of the scene.

At the end, executive director David Drew stepped on stage and said, “If you loved it, please tell a friend, and if you hated it, please tell an enemy.” I didn’t hate the play, and don’t think I’ll be telling any enemies about it. But frenemies are a distinct possibility.

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