Produced by: Palo Alto Players
Featuring: Sarah Moser, Wes Gabrillo, Scott Solomon, Evan Michael Schumacher, Maureen O'Neill, Monica Ho and Monica Cappuccini
Directed by: Jeffrey lo
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
When: January 16 through February 1, 2015
Where: Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, California
Tickets: $31-$45 (discounts available). Call 650-329-0891 or visit www.PAplayers.org
and the River of Forgetfulness
of Sarah Ruhl's powerful 'Eurydice'
I very much like Sarah Ruhl's "Eurydice" as staged at Palo Alto Players, although I am quite sure it isn't for everyone.
It's too weird, too mannered, too poetic for most people, who'd rather get their theater in quick, clear sound bites.
This "Eurydice," impressively directed by Jeffrey Lo, takes its time, which allows Ruhl's constant poetry of word and image to sink into our minds. It's worth thinking through. There is a cast of seven, and every one of them is excellent, fully and consistently committed to the roles they play.
The story, which reimagines the story of Orpheus from the standpoint of Eurydice, is told in things we see as much as in the words we hear.
It's about love, and the loss of loved ones to death, and how sometimes the only comfort we can take is via the River of Forgetfulness.
Eurydice and Orpheus have a romantic day at the beach. He wordlessly gives her the birds and the sea. She thanks him and they kiss. She accepts his marriage proposal. At their wedding, as she time-steps up the aisle, we see her dead father in The Underworld, marching in time with her. It's sweet, and a little scary.
The Nasty Interesting Man tries to steal Eurydice from Orpheus, and she is killed when she tries to run away. She arrives in The Underworld via an elevator in which it is always raining (The River of Forgetfulness) and is greeted by her beloved father, although she does not recognize him.
But he knows her, and does what he can for her, teaching her the ways of The Underworld.
Sarah Moser is beautiful and charming as Eurydice, who is very girlish in the live world, and somewhat insecure, deeply missing her father. Then she has many transitions to make in The Underworld, and Moser makes all that fantasy work.
She is also greeted by the three stones, who recite rules of the Underworld. Monica Cappuccini is Loud Stone, Monica Ho is Little Stone, and Maureen O'Neill is Big Stone. Dressed in colorful, poofy costumes, their makeup is dark and harsh, and most of the time their expressions are, well, stony, as they stare into the distance and mime the making of things with their hands.
Also on hand is the versatile and excellent actor Evan Michael Schumacher, as the Nasty Interesting Man, who wants to marry Eurydice, and who keeps growing, at an alarming rate.
Orpheus is sincerely and finely played by Wes Gabrillo, and a touch I liked is that for his wedding to Eurydice, instead of a tuxedo, he wears a Barong Tagalog. Barong Tagalogs are shirts that are ornate and loosely cool at the same time, very useful in humid climates.
Director Lo, who is quite proud of his Filipino heritage, and who uses it to drive him at his exhausting, non-stop pace, told me via email after I saw the show that "It was really important to me to be able to do that. It adds an extra bit of Orpheus' background and is a subtle way to change the casting of Wes Gabrillo from non-traditional casting (casting a minority in a white role) to multicultural casting (making the character of Orpheus an actual Filipino)."
Scott Solomon, meanwhile, is excellent as Father, beaming his love for his daughter while wearing what might well have been a 1950s era Brooks Brothers suit, topped by a conservative, close-crop hair cut, as he rushes off to work, even in The Underworld.
Orpheus, meanwhile, desperately misses Eurydice, and does all he can to try to communicate with her and then find her in The Underworld. See the play to find out what happens, and remember, it's all about love.
A very nice thing Lo and company added, not in the script, is Cappuccini, as Loud Stone, singing "La Vie En Rose" while Father builds a room of string for Eurydice, who thinks she is in a hotel when she first arrives in The Underworld. It takes a while to build a room of string. and Cappuccini, fine actress and singer, gives us a beautiful tune to hear and a stony face to watch while Solomon builds. It's weird, it's wonderful.
Janny Coté's scenic design is hugely important, and every bit of it works, capturing our imagination and helping deliver the story.
Tanya Finkelstein, like Lo a person who works constantly at making great theater in every way she can, created absolutely inspired costumes, drawing on any era and fantasy that worked to tell the story. In that, she reminds of Julie Taymor.
Jeff Grafton's sound design was excellent, another means of delivering Ruhl's constant imagery. Nick Kumamoto's lighting design makes the challenging, deep, dark and tall set work.
Email John Orr at firstname.lastname@example.org