Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Eurydice at the Yale Rep

An elementary school classmate of my father, a woman in her mid-eighties who travels anywhere in the world at the drop of a hat and continues to sit on the boards of various public bodies—and who still has thick black hair to the waist of her four-foot-ten-inch frame, runs around in heels, and drives like a bat out of hell—has long been a film buff. She has not only seen far more movies in her life than you have, she has probably seen more movies in the last week than you have. If she can’t persuade one of her daughters to go with her (What? Did you think she was going to go with a contemporary? They’re all dead or in dementia units.), she goes by herself. This is a woman who weeps easily and she has always rated movies by the number of hankies she soaks, a system I am borrowing for the moment.

Eurydice, a modern take on the ancient myth, written by Sarah Ruhl, is in previews at the Yale Repertory Theatre, in New Haven. The opening is tomorrow, September 28, and the show runs through October 22. For my wife, this was a three-handkerchief evening; and for any daughter who mourns her father, for any parent or spouse or lover who mourns another, it well should be a three-hanky evening.

Eurydice, in case you were not in class that day, was the young wife of Orpheus. Details vary, depending on the author; but, short story short, Eurydice dies early in the tale and is transported to the underworld. Orpheus, a great musician, play a tune so mournful that the spirits relent and allow him to lead Eurydice back to the world of the living. The condition, though, is that he must not look back during the journey, else Eurydice will die a second time and forever. Of course, he does look back, and thus endeth the tragedy.

The tale was always told from Orpheus’s perspective. Orpheus’s tragic flaw was that he loved Eurydice too much. What Ruhl has done is reimagine the story from Eurydice’s point of view. She has also transposed the plot forward a couple of dozen centuries, added some wickedly funny foils, and, most important from a dramatic standpoint, introduced Eurydice’s father as a central character.

The staging is imaginative and effective. The Rep kicks off their season with a great night of theater (they spell it their way, I spell it my way). The show is ninety minutes without intermission, and there is running water involved. So pee first. If you have never been to the Rep, as I had not, I assure you the seats are comfortably wide, with plenty of knee room, something that cannot be said for other New Haven theaters I’ve been in.

1 comment:

Susan Jones said...

the more you cry the less you, running water, sitting for almost two hours, no intermission, no problem! Cry...lots.