Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Witty Eurydice at River Stage

According to poet Marianne Moore, poetry brings us “imaginary gardens with real toads in them.” But Sarah Ruhl’s “Eurydice,” based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, brings us imaginary gardens with imaginary toads. According to the myth, the poet and musician Orpheus seeks his dead wife in Hades, but when he breaks the rule and looks back at her as she follows him, she remains permanently among the dead.

While Ruhl’s dramatization borrows the skeleton of the myth, director Frank Condon, in his farewell production at River Stage, brings us what appears to be a surreal version, set in a nether world where there appear to be no rules. The central character, as the title predicts, is Eurydice (Destiny Robbins), who appears to be entirely free to do exactly as she chooses.

Orpheus (Spencer Tregilgas) appears in a minor role, scarcely daring to step off the elevator leading him into Hades. He carries an accordion to represent his musicianship.

What’s more, the society of the dead seem to make their own rules (if you can call them such), and the “romance” is between the spirits of Eurydice and her father (Paul Fearn). Since every inhabitant is dead, the laws of the living no longer pply. Thus adultery ceases to be an issue. In this cultural and moral chaos, we’re lectured by a trio of stones: Big Stone (Eric Alston), Little Stone (Joshua Carranza-Vick) and Loud Stone (John Hopkins). But in the anarchy of the dead, their comments seem meaningless.

While the acting and directing hold our attention, the story appears to unfold in a vacuum. With conventional surrealism the premise is based on the irrational and bizarre activities of an unconscious mind, usually functioning during sleep. Thus the “reality” is the product of a slumbering brain. Here we have no reality, merely an imaginary garden with imaginary toads.

Given the flawed premise, the production still holds our interest through Condon’s fine pacing and polished performances by the actors. It continues for about 70 minutes without intermission and offers some witty dialog, as when Eurydice’s father observes, “Be quiet about politics but vote for the right man.”

“Eurydice” continues through May 16 at Cosumnes River College, 8401 Center Parkway, Sacramento. Performances are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $16 to $18, with discounts. Call (916) 691-7364 or e-mail riverstage@crc.losrios.edu.

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