UW-Parkside puts on Sarah Ruhl’s spin on the Greek tragedy of Orpheus
“Eurydice” debuted in UW-Parkside’s Black Box Theater on the April 20 and it was a smashing success. The sets, the acting, and the music all worked together to make a nice end to the 2017-2018 theater season, and it was a perfect way to kick off finals.
The story is set in a vaguely 1950’s scene, with telephones, elevators and mini bicycles to modernize the myth, but it has a timeless feel to it. Orpheus (Kyle Racas) is a famous musician and, indeed, he seems more interested in his music than his bride-to-be (at least while she was alive), and he hears it played out by his muse (Kimberly Hetelle). Eurydice (Christiane Laskowski), the star, is his fiance and she loves him, though she seems to feel unappreciated and is distinctly more book-smart than he is. She is mourning the loss of her father, who will not be there for her wedding, though she is happy to be married.
Eurydice’s father (Jarrod Langwinski) is in the Underworld writing letters to his daughter and trying to devise a way to get them to her. The Lord of the Underworld (Ryan Zierk) finds one and makes his way up to the world of the living. He taunts Eurydice with the letter and leads her to his house, away from her own wedding party. She dies, seemingly from being pushed down his stairs.
In the Underworld, Eurydice does not remember anything. Her father recognizes her and, as he regained his memory by remembering her name, he sets out to protect her and keep her safe in the Underworld (though the Stones (Alexa Uselmann, Joe Schwaller, and Destiny Kent) disapprove).
Meanwhile, Orpheus is going mad with grief and trying every way to get messages to Eurydice, trying to save her from the Underworld. He sends her a letter and a book, showing that he really does care about her.
When Eurydice remembers everything, she is anxious to see Orpheus, but she is enjoying her time with her father. The Lord of the Underworld (dressed as a child) tells her she is to be his bride and she refuses, but we know that he is not going to take that “no” lightly.
Orpheus manages to get to the Underworld by following a note. The Lord of the Underworld tells him that he can have Eurydice back, but only if he does not look at her. Eurydice is reluctant to leave her father, but he walks her away (an echo of a traditional walk down the aisle).
Eurydice cries out for Orpheus. He looks back. They argue for a moment before they are ripped from each other. Eurydice returns to the Underworld to see the room her father constructed for her gone, and that her father dipped himself into the River of Forgetting. She too dips herself in the River, after writing a note for Orpheus.
Orpheus arrives to see them both by the River, asleep, and to find that he too has forgotten.
The play was amazing, and the actors were great, but the set stole the show. The raining elevator that brought the dead into the Underworld and rose from the floor was, of course, incredible, but the stationary scenery–the floating candles that glowed like stars when the spotlights were down, the mosaic tile that was reminiscent of the Greek myth–it was the little details that really brought this play to life.
Christiane Laskowski and Kyle Racas had amazing performances with a great command of the comedy and drama that the roles required, but the best moment for me was when Jarrod Langwinski was alone on the stage. After attempting to send a letter to his daughter, he “walked down the aisle” with his arm out, pretending to be there with her. After such a heartfelt reading of his letter, I was almost in tears by the time he ran offstage to his job. It was one of the best performances I have ever seen at UW-Parkside.
Overall, the play was amazing and I highly recommend everyone attend next-year’s plays.