Local play magical and mythical, a don’t-miss

Posted 3/19/09

“How do you say goodbye to yourself?” Eurydice wonders as she arrives in the underworld — stepping out of an elevator where it’s raining …

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Local play magical and mythical, a don’t-miss


“How do you say goodbye to yourself?” Eurydice wonders as she arrives in the underworld — stepping out of an elevator where it’s raining inside. She can’t understand the language, has trouble recalling her beloved’s face and is generally disoriented.

Director Chip Walton introduced Curious Theatre’s poetic, charming “Eurydice” by commenting that “Curious is a group of designers at the start.” Combine that ability to surround an audience with eye and ear appeal and Sarah Ruhl’s imaginative spin on the ancient myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and magic happens.

Walton called on Ballet Nouveau choreographer Garrett Ammon to work with the actors throughout the performance, so while they’re not actually dancing, they move with unusual grace, almost floating at times.

This is a luminous world of love, loss, blue skies, floating umbrellas, flowing water, stark white trees and characters that move like dancers. Earthworms deliver the mail and a Greek chorus of graceful moving, talking stones intersperses thoughts and instructions as they dip and pour buckets of water into the river. The rhythm of the water sound is musical and fresh.

For centuries, this story has been retold in art, music, drama, dance and opera the world over. Eurydice dies on the day of her marriage to the young musician Orpheus and he strikes a deal to bring her back from the dead — but he must not look back at her as he leads her out.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Sarah Ruhl tells it from the standpoint of the young woman, played by skilled actress Karen Slack. She is very much in love with Orpheus, although missing the other important man in her life, her late father. The couple is canoodling on a beach as lights go up.

Tyee Tighman is the musical Orpheus, who tells Eurydice he has written a song for her today, but he needs 12 instruments. “You will be my orchestra and I love you,” he continues, tying a piece of string on her ring finger.

When they marry, Eurydice’s father (Jim Hunt) is silhouetted behind blue silk, dancing alone at his beloved daughter’s wedding. He has been trying to send her letters via earthworm, and the character described as a Nasty Interesting Man/Child (Mark Pergola) manages to intercept one and lure the bride to his apartment to see it.

She falls to her death from his high rise when he accosts her, and arrives in the underworld, where this character reappears as Lord of the Underworld as she is trying to adjust. He almost seems to have stepped out of Alice’s Wonderland, a large man costumed in undersized child’s clothing.

Eurydice doesn’t recognize her father and thinks he’s the hotel porter, ready to show her to her room.

The magic continues as he builds her a room with string as the stones object: “Dead people should be seen and not heard. Take the house down.”

Meanwhile, a distraught Orpheus is trying to send letters and eventually steps out of the raining elevator, making a deal to rescue his wife. The tragic end of the story follows true to form. (A rereading of the myth reminds one of many details that Ruhl has included in her own way.

Production values add greatly to the show: Michael Duran’s set, Shannon McKinney’s expert lighting and Brian Freeland’s background sound frame characters in Janice Lacek’s costumes.

This production is a don’t- miss-it wonder.

“Eurydice” by Sarah Ruhl plays through April 18 at Curious Theatre, 1080 Acoma St., Denver. Performances: 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $34, Thursdays to Saturdays; $27 Sundays. Two for one on Thursdays. 303-623-0524, www.curioustheatre. org.


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