If you really ponder the fate of Eurydice, swept back into death by her husband Orpheus’ eager glance, you’ll be struck by the sheer passivity of her situation. At least Lot’s wife looked back of her own accord.
Sarah Ruhl revisits the Orpheus legend from a delicately feminist perspective in her prolifically produced play “Eurydice,” now at A Noise Within, ultimately putting Eurydice’s fate firmly back in her own hands.
It’s a satisfyingly revisionist take. Yet, somewhat unexpectedly, Orpheus and Eurydice’s youthful passion is dwarfed by Ruhl’s more resonant theme of fatherly love. Inspired by Ruhl’s own father’s early death from cancer, the play is a sweet valedictory to undying parental affection, a bond that, in this case, heroically transcends death.
Stranded in the afterlife, Eurydice’s Father (effectively low-key Geoff Elliott, who also directs) remembers his daughter (lovely Jules Willcox) even after a dip in the waters of oblivion.
Meanwhile up above, Eurydice is lured away from Orpheus (offbeat Graham Sibley) by a Nasty Interesting Man (imposing Ryan Vincent Anderson), later revealed as the deceptively childlike Lord of the Underworld.
Wiped clean of memory, Eurydice regains her powers of human speech through her father’s patient ministrations, much to the irritation of a comical trio of Stones (Abigail Marks, Jessie Losch and Kelly Ehlert), an adamantine chorus moored to the wall of Jeanine A. Ringer’s simple set.
Elliott’s deft staging is buoyed by sheer stagecraft. Endre Balogh’s live original violin music is critical to the mood. Meghan Gray’s lighting design, enhanced by the spirographic squiggles of Brian Gale’s projections, is one of the most dazzling in memory. Doug Newell’s splendid sound design presents hell as a surprisingly effluent plain, echoing with the sounds of water, from drips in a bucket to the gently running streams of Lethe.
It’s a hypnotic and purifying atmosphere, just right for catharsis.
“Eurydice,”A Noise Within, 3352 East Foothill Blvd., Pasadena.
Various days and dates. Ends May 19, $40-$52. (626) 356-3100.
www.anoisewithin.org. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.