note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth
Although Sarah Ruhl’s modern one-act, 95-minute adaptation of “Eurydice,” the Greek story of memory, loss and love, is called a drama or tragedy, The Independent Drama Society makes it a fun, circus-y event, starting 20 minutes before the play opens and throughout the performance.
The cast is exuberant, their versatile talent and boundless energy filled with joie de vivre, in this commedia dell’arte presentation at the small Plaza Black Box Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts in Boston’s South End.
Abigail Neuhoff’s set isn’t the usual foreboding dark underworld, separated by aqua moving waters. It’s a red-and-white striped circus tent, with multi-tiered platforms or steps, supported by bottles. The 10 clowns, whom designer Samara Martin dresses in everything from tutus to baggy pants, Greek togas and other silly combinations, mingle among the audience, smiling, laughing, sitting among us, while asking questions or performing magic tricks, juggling, and tumbling acrobatically. A few even tell corny jokes.
Glen Moore, Sarah Gazdowicz, Sierra Kagen, Chris Anton, Melissa DeJesus, Zach Eisenstat, Coriana Hunt Swartz, Chris Larson, Micah Tougas, and Victoria Townsend are Big,Little, Loud Stone and the Chorus of Stones, who line this bizarre, Wonderland-style underworld and recite the rules there. They greet and gawk at newcomers, sometimes playfully, other times, tauntingly.
Starring fresh-faced Annie Winneg as Eurydice and Greg Nussen as her winsome lover, Orpheus, the plot takes second place in all this hoopla. It’s a typical tragedy - boy loves girl, girl marries boy, he creates beautiful music, she dies. During courtship, Eurydice and Orpheus frolic like children by the seaside, delighted in being together. At their wedding, Eurydice is enticed away by an evil nasty man, (Adam Lauver, who’s also lord of the underworld). He claims he has a letter from her dead father - which he found. He leads Eurydice to his penthouse apartment, where she accidentally plunges to her death - which is the evil guy’s intent - thus luring her to the underworld to be his wife.
After taking a rain-soaked elevator ride into the depths of the afterlife, holding an empty suitcase and an umbrella, Eurydice realizes she’s dead. Although she can’t understand the language of the dead, she encounters her father, (Cliff Blake), who works tirelessly with her to restore her memory.
Pining away for Eurydice, Orpheus writes sad songs, evoking the stones’ pity. They allow him to speak with the tricycle-riding king of the underworld, who grudgingly gives Orpheus one more chance to win back Eurydice. She must follow him out of the underworld, without his looking back, until they’re safely back on Earth. Orpheus fails, loses Eurydice again, then dies, hoping he’ll be reunited with her in the afterlife.
Ruhl’s modern version and the Independent Drama Society’s fun-filled interpretation, led by Artistic Director Lindsay Eagle, is a treat for all ages.
BOX INFO: Written by Sarah Ruhl, featuring the Independent Drama Society, through April 30 at the Plaza Black Box Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St., South End, Boston. Performances: Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4,8 p.m.; Thursday, April 28, at 7:30 p.m. Advance tickets, $23; day of show, $28; students, seniors, $18. Visit www.bostontheatrescene.com.