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  • Rosie Roche

Love and Loss with Eurydice at Writers’ Theater



Audience engagement at Writers begins long before the house opens. There is always a

signature cocktail to complement the show’s themes and an interactive foyer piece to set our

moods and intention for the play. For Eurydice now on view at the suburban Glencoe stage, a string fort was suggested by a few lines tied together in a

corner, a table with postcards, pencils and tiny clothes pegs were provided for us to answer

the playwright’s prompt “Who have you lost and what would you say to them if you suddenly

found you could have more conversations with them?’

I filled one out at once, my companion read others’ first and later wrote an arresting note,

speaking of the echoes of her lost ones’ influence. I saw interested people come up to the

table and recoil at the vulnerability they were being invited to share. We were not in for a light

entertaining take on an ancient myth.

The set (by scenic designer Courtney O’Neill) looked to me like a skate park, all steep slopes

suggesting wood pallets, and a rusty looking fire hydrant. It was beautifully lit from inside the

wooden hill but otherwise very dark. Throughout the play there were echoing drip sounds

reminiscent of a cave and reminding me of the depiction of hell in Neil Gaiman and Terry

Pratchett’s ‘Good Omens’ where the damned walk about empty sewers.

The opening scene showed us Orpheus and Eurydice playing together in that wonderful late

summer sense of endless leisure and time standing still to give all the space to lovers to love

and explore one another. It was beautifully choreographed by Tonya Lockyer and directed by

Braden Abraham. The tenderness Kenneth La’Ron Hamilton as Orpheus communicated by

taking Eurydice’s arm in his to draw into existence the sky and stars, the sea and land, was

beautifully done and touching. That’s as far as I went in feeling any connection between the

lovers. Sarah Price as Eurydice was dressed in distractingly odd 1980s jeans and tied blouse

that I found distracting and seemed to over act the love scene to make it unbelievable. Later

she wore a 1960s suit that again was confusing to me, I did not get what s=costume designer

Danielle Nieves wanted me to see and feel. The Greek Chorus, The Stones, were effective and

funny and wore Hawaiian shirts and beach wear to observe the cave/sewer underworld. Again,

a choice that I did not get.

The stand out performance was from John Gregorio as Father. His deep orange wool suit and

bare feet, his curly hair parted to frame his face, I loved, suggesting a playful formality. His face

was open, his eyes bright and his stillness mesmerizing. I cried as he mimed an imaginary

walking his daughter down the aisle to The Beatles’ ‘All you need is love’. It was oddly much

more moving than when he did the same thing with Eurydice on his arm later. Both he and

Orpheus have great physical presence, their slow dancelike movements really engaging to

watch. When Orpheus enters the underworld and conducts his symphony with his whole body,

time slowed and I willed his spell to work.

Contentious discussion followed the play with my companion loving the creepy cowboy play

acting of Larry Yando as the Lord of the Underworld because she felt his character viscerally

without his having to say any lines. I just found it unsettling and disgusting. So it was an

effective portrayal of predatory male power either way, whether we enjoyed it or not. I

particularly disliked an old man playing a young boy on a bike and being treated as a child

when he was old and letchy. This is perhaps proof it was well done.

The fire hydrant was not just a stationary prop but a great way of showing characters choosing

to forget, to bathe in the waters of the river Leithy. Eurydice at first protects herself from the

transforming rain with an umbrella in the comical elevator journey between the worlds,

perfectly accompanied by 1950/60s French easy listening music. When Father chooses to end

his loneliness and forget rather than spend another eternity missing Eurydice, the play

climaxed for me. In short order Eurydice follows suit and Orpheus is wiped clean by the

elevator rain, piling tragedy on loss in proper Greek fashion.

It is primarily a play about love between children and parents, maybe particularly fathers and

daughters, about how people live on in us, the left behind, the fantasy that is part of the

grieving process for so many of us. It was sad and memorable, in part funny and hopeful and

so was a successful production. Despite my not really caring about Eurydice or believing her

love for Orpheus, the strength of Father’s acting made me feel all the feels Sarah Ruhl surely

intended.

Euridice is playing at Writers Theater, 325 Tudor Court in Glencoe through October 22. Tickets $35-$90 at 847 242 6000; www.writerstheatre.org

For more reviews go to www.TheatreInChicago.com

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