Letting go of a deceased loved one is an almost impossible task— one that is explored in whimsical way in Phoenix Theatre’s produciton of Eurydice, a play by Sarah Ruhl.
Directed by MFA candidate Jeffery Pufahl, Eurydice takes a contemporary view of the Greek myth of Orpheus, a man so overtaken by the grief of losing his wife (Eurydice) that he travels to the underworld to retrieve her. The twist in Ruhl’s version is that Eurydice reunited with her deceased father and is torn between the two worlds.
Right off the bat, the audience is transported into the underworld, with its smoke, fire and rules. A chorus of stones, both mysterious and mischievous, frolic, dance, twist and whirl as they move around the thrust-stage, even into the aisles. They are the keepers of the underworld, and the Interesting Man, their king.
The cast as a whole works, with Graham Miles the standout as the elegant and intriguing Interesting Man. Alysson Hall does a great job showing the playfulness and vulnerability of Eurydice as a young bride, although at times her speech is forced and pronunciation over- exaggerated. Orpheus’ tormented longing is front and centre in Derek Wallis’ performance, while Peter McGuire displays a sense of maturity and strength as Eurydice’s Father.
The chorus of Stones’ personality and physicality adds to the fanciful aspect of Eurydice. Draped head-to-toe in cobalt blue, they’re each set apart by a bit of flare — a beret, a belt, a ponytail —to show their individual personalities.
Other costumes by production designer, Mary Kerr were on point, with The Interesting Man decked to the nines in a smart black and red asymmetric suit and an impressive unitard painted in vibrant red and blues that shows every vein in his body.
The set, also by Kerr is angular and geometric, with a gigantic blood-red grid affixed to one wall and a huge moon-like orb on the other. In between lies grand double doors— the gates to the underworld.
The rest of the set is kinetic, the pieces are shifted and swirled by the chorus of Stones in a fluid way without distracting the audience’s attention from the plot.
The vibrant colours of the underworld, cobalt blue, lemon yellow and blood red are juxtaposed next to virtuous shades of whites and beiges of the land of the living.
This production explores both the land of the living and the land of the dead — and even the spaces in between using the space in Uvic’s Chief Dan George Theatre in some clever ways.
Actors are hoisted on the fly system as they go for a swim in the ocean. Letters and people are passed between worlds with a bucket system on pulleys and Orpheus calls down Eurydice in the underworld from the fly loft, adding to the sense of separation between them.
The sound by Neil Ferguson provided an electronic backdrop and brought this story — which is thousands of years old — into the 21st century, with meditative ambient tracks and heavy bass.
Lighting designer Bryan Kenney hit the mark contrasting the radience of the land of the living with the darkness of the underworld.
Overall, Phoenix Theatre’s production of Eurydice is a playful and artistic look at love, life, loss and separation. M