The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice’s love is one embedded in the Ancient Greek storytelling tradition and perhaps you’ve heard it many times before. In Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice, directed by Alan Dilworth for Soulpepper Theatre’s production, the myth is given new possibility in an adaptation that shows Eurydice’s (Michelle Monteith) perspective on her visit to the underworld.
The opening scene gives us a glimpse into Orpheus (Gregory Prest) and Eurydice’s relationship. It is a whimsical, perhaps naïve, young love that is shown to us, and that whimsical feeling continues throughout the piece.
The underworld that Eurydice is taken to is not a dark hell filled with lava and treacherous beasts. Silence defines Ruhl’s underworld, with its occupants forgetting to do things such as laugh, cry and read. Dilworth embraces these quiet moments in his direction of the piece, with a prolonged wordless scene showing Eurydice’s father (Oliver Dennis) making her a room in the underworld. For the most part, this works very well, with feelings of both dread and wonder evoked by the idea of doing very little for a long period of time. The rhythm of the piece as a whole does seem to drag towards the end, however. Moments contrasting these instants of silence would have been nice.
The Lord of the Underworld (Stuart Hughes) is both menacing and alluring and Hughes does an excellent job of managing this duality. His presence is magnetic, making it understandable as to why both Orpheus and Eurydice would trust him for short periods of time.
Monteith is also excellent in her ability to balance Eurydice’s maturity with her innocence and love for her father and her husband.
Lorenzo Savoini’s set is industrial-looking and off-kilter, a perfect balance of foreboding and whimsical to represent Ruhl’s underworld. The moment when Eurydice arrives in the underworld, the details of which I will not spoil here, is particularly beautiful and is made only more powerful when a similar image recurs towards the end of the play.
The Soulpepper production of Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice is brilliantly acted and beautifully staged. It takes its time in exploring both the familial and romantic love in Eurydice’s life and the pain of losing that love. In a world defined by silence, Ruhl’s poetic text speaks out loud and clear.
Eurydice runs until June 18 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. For tickets and more information, visit wwww.soulpepper.ca or call the box office at 416-866-8666.
photo credit: Cylla von Tiedemann