Friday, October 03, 2008

Eurydice in Portland

(photo is from a production at Philadelphia's Wilma Theater)
Bobo was sort of disappointed by Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice (at Artists Rep). Where the off-beat quirkiness of Dead Man’s Cell Phone and The Clean House are more rooted in the everyday, Eurydice starts with self-consciously eccentric elements and remains stuck there. (I came across one headline that read, ""Ruhl ruins Eurydice with whimsy.")
At the same time, director Randall Stuart’s production teaches viewers about specifically theatrical effects -- what theater can do that movies or books don’t or can’t.
The play has a killer finish -- Eurydice is separated from her father by death; then she isn’t; then she is, forever -- but there’s avant-garde that produces new ways of seeing things, and then there’s avant-garde that’s just “What the fuck?”
Too much of the latter.
But the staging! Numerous cubes rolled into all kinds of configurations. Eurydice swinging gleefully from the rafters on a swing made of brightly colored cloth, and then contorting and falling and striking joyful poses. A chorus of three otherworldly stones. A room made out of string. A glass elevator that wasn’t filled with rain (as in other proudctions) but just with sound effects -- though a couple of the cubes surprisingly filled in for the Lethe River with actual water. A touching conclusion: wishes for happiness from the dead.
One of the best sound designs I’ve ever heard in a theater, and for a play that takes music seriously.
The Orpheus, a kind of lesser Antonio Banderas, was not good: Despite the character’s obsession with music, he couldn’t sing, didn’t seem passionate. But he delivered half his speeches while hanging upside down from the rafters. Warm father/Eurydice relationship. The Nasty-Interesting Man, also Lord of the Underworld, played by the same hefty, resonant-voiced actor who imitated Orson Welles in Orson’s Shadow at this same theater a year ago.
Ruhl knows how to evoke love and joy and sorrow using techniques that work best in live performance; they’re ritualistic.
Then, to complete the evening’s festivities, Bobo pulled into a Motel 6 in Salem, where he proceeded to sleep the sleep of the dead.
Bobo: a regular one-man moveable party.

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