Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
Food for thought; lots of thought. That’s what’s being served up this weekend and next as the University of Michigan-Flint Department of Theatre and Dance presents a modern take on an ancient Greek myth, Eurydice. Playwright Sarah Ruhl’s version emerges through a host of impressions. It can be alternately described as lyrical, romantic, comic, heart wrenching, even frightening, but most of all, under the direction of Janet Haley, it is riveting.
As the play begins, Eurydice (Christine Nogaj) is in love with Orpheus (Joshua Cornea). They are frolicking at the beach where Orpheus proclaims his love first in gesture, then music and words, and finally by tying a string to her finger to remind her of his undying affection and to seal their engagement.
Nogaj and Cornea are sweet and youthful here in sharp contrast to their evolution throughout the story. Both do a credible job of bringing these characters through a range of emotion and experience.
Since this tale is destined to be a tragedy, the scene shifts to the Underworld where we meet Eurydice’s deceased Father (Connor Klee) as he bemoans his inability to walk his daughter down the aisle. Instead he sadly writes yet another letter, one of many over the years, which he knows she has never received. Klee’s portrayal of this older man is masterful and believable.
The action melds next to the wedding day with the happy couple in their wedding finery. Music pervades the background and a hum of conversation signals a reception underway. Eurydice, less enchanted with music than with words, steps out to escape the crowd and is enticed away by an Interesting Man (George Marzonie). He purports to have a letter from her Father, a ploy that manages to lead her to her destiny. Marzonie’s evil intent is well put forth here and continues in his various guises later.
The Underworld becomes the setting for the rest of the play complete with a rainy elevator and a series of talking Stones who act as both commentators and narrators. Loud Stone (Madaline Harkema) provides the comic relief while Big Stones (RuSharra Euwing, Alexis Harvey) and Little Stones (Shekinah Tapplin, Dominique Hinde) spout rules and proclamations as they endeavor to keep the Underworld on track for their master. As this Lord of the Underworld, Marzonie appears first on a tricycle and then on stilts (he grew), but always exudes a menace that is palpable.
The set for Eurydice is equally mesmerizing. An array of levels, ramps and steps change location smoothly with the additions of lighting and very minimal set pieces. The river ripples and the Stones quite literally become rocks on the bank.
We choose not to reveal the ending and its effect on Friday’s audience. Suffice it to say that a moment of stunned silence preceded the applause. There is much to ponder in this story, not the least of which is the old saying “timing is everything”.
Eurydice continues through February 8 at UM-Flint Theatre, 303 E. Kearsley St., Flint 48502. For more information contact the box office at 810-237-6520 or online at www.umflint.edu/theatredance