Theater Review: “Eurydice”

Oceanside Theatre Company presents Ruhl’s “Eurydice” through Feb. 26 at the Brooks Theater.
Photo credit:
Oceanside Theatre Company

You know this is New Mythology when you see Eurydice taking a rainy elevator down to the Underworld.

Playwright Sarah Ruhl, despite her sound-alike name, believes in breaking them.

And so do I, especially when doing so results in plays as fascinating as her “Eurydice,” which further turns the old myth on its head by telling the tale from Eurydice’s point of view – and offers talking stones, a hair orchestra and the Lord of the Underworld on a tricycle in the bargain.

Oceanside Theatre Company presents Ruhl’s “Eurydice” through Feb. 26 at the Brooks Theater.

Interim artistic director Dhyana Dahl has marshaled a fine array of actors and musicians for this delightful play.

The story starts out well. Eurydice (Morgan Taylor Altenhoff) falls for musician Orpheus (John Maltese), and the wedding comes off without a hitch. Still, she finds herself thinking, “I always thought there would be more interesting people at my wedding.”  

Then she meets an Interesting Man (a dangerous-looking Tavis Baker), who lures her to his elegant high-rise by telling her he has a letter from her beloved, long-dead father.

But when she realizes what’s up and tries to flee from this scumbag, she suffers a fatal fall and ends up in the Underworld (this is where the rainy elevator comes in.)

Once there, she’s dunked in a memory-erasing river (presumably the Lethe) and connects with dad – whom she mistakes for the porter, and asks to be taken to her room. She is told (nay, shouted at) by three unruly Stones (Madeleine Colburn, Catalina Zelles and Brooke Farnum) that “There are no rooms here!”

So dad (Christopher Pittman) lovingly builds her one, out of string.

She meets the Lord of the Underworld (Tavis Baker), childlike and hilarious in blue shorts, a red and white striped shirt, red cape and baseball cap), who takes a fancy to her.

Meanwhile, the lonely Orpheus writes letter after letter (delivered by her dad, who also reads them to her because she lost human language with that dip in the river) – and even sends her the “Complete Works of Shakespeare.” Finally Orpheus decides to go down and get her. 

He finds her, all right, and then she has to decide which she wants to lose: dad or her husband.

She goes, of course, but when she calls to Orpheus and he turns around, he’s broken the “don’t look back” admonition and she dies again.

“Eurydice” is a theatrical riff on death, grief, loss and love, but fear not: it’s not lugubrious or depressing.

Ruhl writes with the pen of a poet (she was a poet first).

But she’s likely to be remembered mostly for her images. Credit set designer Jason Adkins for the huge sea painting in the background and a large pier-like wooden structure with four steps down to a platform, and then four more steps down.

Altenhoff and Maltese make a very attractive couple as Eurydice and Orpheus. Pittman is charmingly avuncular – especially with that homey southern accent – as Eurydice’s father. The Stones – Coburn, Farnum and little Zelles – are way more interesting than the average Greek chorus.

The three-member band goes to town on Paul Durso’s pop-rock score. Durso plays guitar and piano; Gabrielle Dodaro is on violin and Bryon Andersen handles percussion and sound effects.

There’s also puppetry by Mark Patricio and Kelsey McNeilly, and huge paintings by Jason Adkins (who also did the stage set), along with a gorgeous underwater photograph by Skye Walker on sale in the lobby.

“Eurydice” is like “West Side Story” – one of those plays in the “do not miss” category. It’s just a wonderful piece, always worth seeing. 

The details

Oceanside Theatre Company’s production of “Eurydice” plays through February 26, 2017 at the Brooks Theatre, 217 N. Coast Highway, Oceanside.

Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm; Sunday at 2 pm

Tickets:: (760) 433-8900 or oceansidetheatre.org