“How do you say goodbye to yourself?” ponders Eurydice, the new bride who finds herself in the Land of the Dead. Such are the questions posed by Sarah Ruhl’s 2003 play, which opened this weekend at ISU.
It is based on the Greek myth about the separation of Orpheus and Eurydice just after they wed, when Eurydice suddenly dies. The sold-out audience was enthralled by this ancient tale told anew.
Myeongsik Jang directs this otherworldly story with a sure and delicate hand. Along with scenic designer Lauren M. Lowell, they create an impressively spare acting space, which establishes a contemporary universe where Orpheus and Eurydice fall in love. And then the Underworld: Eurydice is showered by real water as she enters the Land of the Dead, and an audience member was heard to cry out, above a whisper, “That was really cool!”
The lighting design by Erica Lauren Maholmes and the costume design by Nicole R. Kippen kept the “coolness” going with their use of bright colors, zippy suits, bubble umbrellas, and flowing gowns. The sound design by Gregory Kontos, mixing swing music with contemporary pop, added yet another dimension to the dreamscape with imagination and flair.
A character referred to as “Nasty Interesting Man,” (who later morphs into the King of Hades) is played to the hilt with zest and pop by Rondale Gray. He tries to seduce Eurydice and lures her to the Underworld by dangling a letter written to her by her deceased father on her wedding day.
Having been immersed in “the River” as she crossed over, Eurydice has forgotten who her husband was, how to read, and she does not recognize her father, tenderly portrayed by Kim Pereira. As lonely as he is, he encourages his daughter to return to the land of the living, and to her husband, Thomas Russell, as the devoted Orpheus.
Tori DeLaney is entirely believable as Eurydice, caught between worlds, torn by devotion and love. She is a lost soul, and DeLaney breaks the audience’s heart as they witness her struggle.