Friday, August 16, 2019

Eurydice (review)

Credit: Paul M. Rubenstein
Spoilers ahoy!

Mythology gives such fertile ground with which to shape our individual dreams.  Artists perhaps more than anyone do this constantly.  Playwright Sarah Ruhl for example took the Greek legend of the great singer Orpheus and retold it in a way both fresh yet familiar in her play Eurydice now playing at the CityGarage in Santa Monica.

Usually the focus remains squarely on Orpheus, greatest musician in the world, whose wife was murdered on her wedding day.  In grief, he made his way to the Underworld, and sang so beautifully that Hades, God and King of that realm, granted that he might lead his bride back to the world, on condition that he not look at her till both had returned to the land of the living.

Of course, like Lot's wife, he did look.  Just one moment too soon.

Credit: Paul M. Rubenstein
But what Ruhl does, and this wonderful cast does under the direction of Frederique Michel, is focus not upon Orpheus but what this story from Eurydice's point of view.  To emphasize this, the murderer is cut from the story altogether--instead the person responsible for Eurydice (Lindsay Plake) having an accident which leads to her death is none of than Death himself, or at least the Lord of the Underworld (Gifford Irvine)--a startlingly metamorphic character, of weird power and otherworldly motives.  For this is not a tale of someone trying and failing to win back his love, but rather about our relationship to death, to memory, to regret, and maybe even to the sweet oblivion of eternal sleep.

Interestingly, one of the pivotal characters proves to be Eurydice's father (Bo Roberts, in what is frankly my fave performance of his so far at this theatre) who died long ago, but whose hopes for his beloved child have kept him more active, more aware than most of the rest of the dead.  He welcomes her when she arrives, having lost so much of her memory in "the river."  Confused, she looks for her hotel room, and only very gradually starts to recall who this nice stranger might be.

Credit: Paul M. Rubenstein
All this is observed by three Stones (Marissa Dubois, Emily Asher Kellis, and Brandon Reed), who clearly do not approve (insomuch as they "feel" anything at all) of all these feelings, this talk, this dredging up of what was before. The fact these three inanimate objects work as characters speaks a lot about both script and performers.

So instead of watching Orpheus (Johanny Paulino) seek for some way to retrieve his wife, we share the weird journey she endures amongst the dead.

When in fact Orpheus makes his way to the Underworld, we find his music does not move anyone with its beauty.  Rather, the Stones scream in pain as he makes them feel.  More, he does not turn and look back at Eurydice in a moment of weakness at the last moment, but out of habit from the troubled nature of their relationship.  Life was not, after all, perfect any more than was their real love of one another.  No more than her father's seemingly infinite, sad patience with her.  Maybe that is what we can take away most from this dream-like story enacted on stage, that it is the nature of time and life to be tainted by regret.  Which makes death not something horrible in the end, not really. 

Credit: Paul M. Rubenstein
Or maybe it is horrible.  Just not as horrible as one thinks.  The river of forgetfulness is not a torture, but a release.  It can be, anyway.  If someone is ready, has reached that point.  And until then...?

That is the unanswered question.  Left up to you to answer for your own life, informed and perhaps haunted by tales such as this.

But let me say this--words alone by a playwright rarely haunt or move.  They are meant to be acted out, and this cast captures the eerie and quietly human voyage of these characters (except of course the four characters who are not human--the majority of the cast come to think on it).  City Garage can and often does perform outrageously stylized works.  They do these so very well.  But my favorites have always been when the simple life of the characters shine through, the decisions and consequences and experience of what is happening.  Eurydice counts as one of my favorites from this company, because even a Stone, even a God, still seem somehow human.  The humans meanwhile make me ache for them.  Especially the title character, due in large part to the actor who portrays her.

Eurydice plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm Sundays at 3pm until September 15, 2019 at the City Garage, Bergamot, T1 Space, 2525 Michigan Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90404.

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