“Eurydice:” Playing with the senses

Entering the world of UVM’s production of “Eurydice,” what is immediately striking is how cleanlooking the set is.Little details stand out: the silver pipes, the white stripe down center stage like a sidewalk that suddenly ends up at a 90-degree angle, the walkway set in the background, and the little teacup hanging from a faucet at the front of the stage. There is nothing to alert the audience, no clue, as to the strange events that are about to occur.Of course, those in the audience who have read or at least heard about the myth of Orpheus know what basic events are going to occur: Orpheus will lose his wife, “Eurydice,” and he will go down into the underworld to search for her.His only instruction as he leaves is not to look back or she will disappear. He does look back, as everyone certainly knew he would, and Eurydice is gone again. However, how these events were portrayed in Sarah Ruhl’s play is unexpected.Ruhl’s “Eurydice” has taken an old myth and placed it in a more modern time (the exact time is never specified, but it’s safe to say that it’s set no earlier than the 1940s).It was made with the idea of taking the story of Orpheus and shifting the focus onto the woman some may call the true subject of the myth, his dead wife. In this production she is seen alive and in love, an,d from the beginning of the play you can’t help but feel like there’s something terrible that has to happen to her: she seems too na’ve for it not to.The actress takes advantage of this a little too much in the beginning, making Eurydice seem a little one sided. But then again, perhaps this is purposeful, because the true story doesn’t begin until she is dead.How to account for the scenes in which she is still living? Whose eyes are we seeing them through?How did they really occur? Eurydice has that effect on its audience: the values of things are questioned, whether they are being seen as they have been interpreted or as they really are. Perhaps the audience is seeing her life as she remembers it.Perhaps only seeing the important details. The answer is left up to the viewer. What’s important is that she dies, and this is when Paige Kelley brings Eurydice to life. This play, if nothing else, is another interpretation of death, and the audience feel they are a visitor to the underworld, seeing it as a dead person might: stones, played by the rather morbid-looking Maria Dirolf, Mian O’Dowd and Annie Stauffer, are the gamekeepers of the underworld.There is a new language spoken and the knowledge that makes up one’s conscious being is washed away, leaving the visitor questioning just who exactly they are.It is refreshing to see a performance in which every actor seemed to carry his or her weight,.but there were a number of notable performances in this production. The most memorable, albeit short, was the sex-crazed mother of Hades, played by Molly Dowd Sullivan. Carter Beidler, who plays a grieving Orpheus that will tug at any soft heart, and Paige Kelley, playing dreamy Eurydice, give the play momentum while giving the audience motivation to hope the outcome will be different, although we know all along that it won’t. “Eurydice” is complex and poetic, and it will end leaving one wanting to see it again to try and make sense out of the nonsensical. It would be impossible to walk out of it with the same interpretation as the person in the next seat over. The play will be performed in the Royall Tyler Theater at 7:30 until Oct. 12. Go see what can be made of it.