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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at Second Stage

By Bill Stevenson

  Maria Dizzia and Charles Robinson/Ph: Sara Krulwich

Sometimes the set design for a play is so striking that it upstages the story. Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice at Second Stage is a perfect example. Scott Bradley's set is gorgeous to look at and suits the play perfectly. Ruhl's often poetic writing includes several lovely passages, and Maria Dizzia is sweetly vulnerable in the title role.

Unfortunately, the busy young playwright (The Clean House ) undercuts the emotionally resonant scenes with whimsical moments and comic characters who fail to amuse.

Ruhl's well-known source material is the myth in which Orpheus (an appealing Joseph Parks) falls madly in love with Eurydice (Dizzia). She dies shortly after their marriage, and Orpheus follows her to the Underworld in an attempt to bring her back. Tragically, he makes the mistake of looking back when she follows him, ruining their chance for happiness.

Despite touching scenes between the two lovers and between Eurydice and her father (Charles Shaw Robinson), Ruhl isn't content to tell the story of doomed lovers in tragic fashion. Instead she dubs the Lord of the Underworld "The Nasty and Interesting Man" (Mark Zeisler), and has him do wacky things like ride a tricycle while music blares. He wears a red sweatshirt, but otherwise he's more clown than devil. There's also a three- person chorus of three Stones (Gian-Murray Gianino, Carla Harting, and Ramiz Monsef). Sporting gloomy Victorian-style outfits and deathly white makeup, they're more silly than haunting. "Being sad is not allowed," they tell Eurydice, and Ruhl seems to be following their advice.

The direction by Les Waters, who staged earlier productions at the Berkley Repertory Theatre and Yale Repertory Theatre, complements Ruhl's inventive, postmodern style. But as the play becomes increasingly cute and ultimately self-indulgent, the pace slackens and the final moments drag.

Even when Ruhl's adventurousness backfires, Bradley's set always holds our attention. His off-kilter Underworld boasts aquamarine tiles, floating chandeliers, neon accents, and water that gushes from the elevator that delivers new arrivals. Russell H. Champa's g lighting makes the watery resting place even more alluring. It's such a stunning hell, in fact, that it's hard to feel sad when Eurydice finds herself stuck there. Between the poetic language, the comic bits, and the water imagery, Ruhl lost sight of the myth. Much as she wants to turn it into comedy, Eurydice's story is essentially a tragedy.



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