Sarah Ruhl’s “Eurydice” is a delicately constructed play, part drama and part comedy, that leaves its visual style to the creative imaginations of the director and designers who stage it.
In that regard, the Living Room production of this poignant tale is a smashing success. Thursday’s production was among the most technically sophisticated shows I’ve seen at the unpredictable downtown theater company.
Director Natalie Liccardello creates precise stage pictures and captures nice performances from a gifted cast. Much of the humor is embedded in the play, but Ruhl wrote it a way that allows actors broad discretion in the execution. Ruhl’s script unfolds in ways that are surprising, elliptical and mystical. In some ways it’s more like a long poem than a conventional play.
As the title suggests, this is a retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth: Eurydice, young and newly married, dies and is transported to the underworld; her husband, Orpheus, a mesmerizing musician, follows her to the House of the Dead to bring her back.
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Daria LeGrand exudes star charisma in the title role. LeGrand was just a kid the first time I reviewed her. Now she’s a young woman with a magnetic smile and smart stage instincts. She plays Euridyce as a naif with quick intelligence.
Interesting Man essentially tricks Eurydice into crossing the River Styx. Played as cynical user by Matthew Schmidli, Interesting Man is funny and vivid despite his relatively brief stage time.
As Orpheus, Brian Huther is a mild presence in the early going but becomes increasingly intense as the play progresses. Tim Ahlenius is thoughtful and quietly appealing as Father, who has been writing letters to daughter Eurydice from the underworld.
That netherworld, as imagined by a design team led by Matthew McAndrews (he’s credited as technical director) is a quirky place textured with surrealistic details. People arrive via an elevator that drips water. A succession of compelling images fill a video screen built into the set. Perhaps the most compelling is the kaleidoscopic wormhole through which Orpheus is transported to the underworld.
Then there’s a Greek chorus called the Stones — Zachary Parker, Ben Auxier and Dianne Yvette. The group offers a sort of running commentary and becomes quite impatient when Eurydice refuses to follow the rules of the dead. Each actor has a distinct take, and collectively they’re hilarious.
Making a big impression is 13-year-old Cam Burns as Lord of the Underworld. Burns offers an unexpected comic performance that is smart and detailed. The character comes across as petulant and fickle with unidentified dark desires. Remarkably, he holds his own with the grownups onstage quite nicely.
Ultimately, there’s something missing from Ruhl’s play. She writes about fundamental human questions but never quite frames them in a fully coherent context. I left the theater impressed, but with the nagging feeling that the show failed to deliver the dramatic effect it could have.