Tragedy strikes the PAC: Eurydice comes to UAlbany
By Analucia Zepeda
March 3, 2015
Eurydice made its debut on Friday, Feb. 27 at the Performing Arts Center at the University at Albany. The play had everything you would expect from a Greek tragedy: death, love, loss and irony. As doors to the LAB Theater on the second floor of the PAC open, viewers walk into a dark space and are greeted by a tranquil scene. White and blue lights are strung up from floor to ceiling, projections on the walls and floor give a sense that one is almost under water in the space.
There are three seating sections from which people may choose to sit. They all face what may be called the performance platform for it looked more like that than a traditional stage. The performance platform weaves in and around these sections, creating an organic flow and movement to the room. The tranquility and flow with which audience members are greeted heavily contrasts the performance to come. The play begins and ends and viewers are inundated with a sense of static and stagnancy and discomfort. Eurydice achieves something with its content that makes people realize how good it feels to be alive.
The play, adapted by Sarah Ruhl from the ancient Greek myth “Euridice,” takes a contemporary approach which is evident as soon as it begins. The story is that of two young lovers, Eurydice (played by Ominayzha Alexander) and Orpheus (playe by Jonahan Peck), who fall victim to the manipulative workings of the lord of the underworld (played by both Gerrit Krüper and Michael Chaney).
On her wedding day Eurydice is convinced by the lord, who has concealed his identity behind that of an interesting but rather neurotic man, to follow him to his house where he claims to have a letter from her dead father. She realizes the man’s duplicitous intentions and when attempting to leave, falls down into the underworld, the land of the dead.
She arrives in an elevator where from within all memory is lost to the rain that pours on each ‘guests’ head. It is there where her father (played by Ben Katagiri) finds her lost and mindless. He becomes her mentor and slowly helps her regain memory until she remembers who he is and her life before she died. Orpheus falls into a depression after Eurydice’s death, and while in search of her, desperately ends up at the doors to the underworld. The lord of the underworld makes him a deal, allowing Eurydice to return to the land of the living with Orpheus. They must walk through the threshold one after the other, Orpheus in front, but if he turns to look at Eurydice before they cross then the deal is null and she must return back to the land of the dead.
Eurydice meets Orpheus on the path and together they walk, but before Orpheus can cross she calls out to him in a moment of uncertainty and he turns to look at her. Distraught at the realization of their mistake they embrace one last time before she returns back down to her father. At this point, Eurydice’s father has entered the elevator, resolved to dip himself in the memory stealing rains so as to forget the painful memory of his daughter, whom he expects is now in the land of the living.
Eurydice finds her father silent, desolate on the ground and then dips herself in the rains as well to eliminate her renewed pain. She sees her father, now a stranger, and lies down lifelessly
next to him. But tragically before the plays conclusion, the sound of the elevator descending is heard, out comes Orpheus, memoryless. He sees his wife and father-in-law lying on the ground, strangers to him now too.
Ruhl’s Eurydice has a similar likeness to that of the works of David Lynch, a raw, dream-like, and even convoluted type of story that in all its stillness manages to find a way to move the viewer. It addresses these big life questions about love and life but doesn’t actually answer them so pointedly. Which may be to the benefit of the viewer because what a consumer of art and literature seeks is a method of approach to these questions, not a method of attack. That much about Ruhl’s play was evident.
Although all actors in the performance performed wonderfully, it was Katagiri’s exceptional depiction of a persistent and ever-loving father that truly shined throughout the performance. It seems when he was on stage that he was the one who most commanded and merited attention. Chad Larabee, Director of the UAlbany performance, did a great job of embracing and honing in Ruhl’s minimalistic tone to produce a complexly beautiful piece. Eurydice is an experience that you will be happy to have been a part of.
Eurydice will be playing March 4 through 6 at 7 p.m., and March 7 at 2 p.m. Advance tickets are $10 for the general public and $5 for students, seniors and UA faculty/staff. Day-of show tickets are $15 for the general public and $10 for students, seniors, and UA faculty/staff. Additional information about the show and box office hours may be found at www.albany.edu/pac.