>>> Review: Eurydice

EURYDICE by Sarah Ruhl (Soulpepper). At the Young Centre (50 Tank House). Runs to June 18. $29.50-$94, some rush. 416-866-8666,.


EURYDICE by Sarah Ruhl (Soulpepper). At the Young Centre (50 Tank House). Runs to June 18. $29.50-$94, some rush. 416-866-8666, soulpepper.ca. Rating: NNNN

Eurydice, Sarah Ruhls take on the Orpheus legend, offers lots of surprises, some gentle, some breathtaking in their theatricality.

First, Ruhl tells the tale of the musician and the woman he loses to death and the underworld from Eurydices point of view. Just as unexpectedly, the playwright is as concerned with fathers and daughters as with the lovers she dedicates the work to her late parent.

On her wedding night, the romantic Eurydice (Michelle Monteith) meets both the Lord of the Underworld (Stuart Hughes) and her death. In his kingdom, she encounters her father (Oliver Dennis) and a Greek chorus of stones (Courtney Chng Lancaster, Alex McCooeye and Oyin Oladejo) who reject emotion, reading and song.

Meanwhile, the distraught Orpheus (Gregory Prest) whose mind is often more caught up in music than with Eurydice tries to connect with his beloved, sending her letters that cant be relied on to reach her in a land where mail isnt the norm.

It doesnt help communication that language in the underworld is experienced differently than on the surface beneath the ground, people stand on a handwritten letter to try to understand its contents.

Director Alan Dilworth takes Ruhls lyrical script, crammed with whimsy and poetry, and fills it out not only with words, but also with silences, both of which have a telling emotional weight as father and daughter reconnect and the mythical underworld ruler makes his own plea for Eurydice.

Monteith shines as the innocent who discovers that love of any sort may have its limits, no matter how much you want it. Prests Orpheus, though occasionally stolid, never gives up trying to reconnect with Eurydice, encouraging her to be with him though he knows she has no sense of rhythm.

Stuart Hughes can turn from charming to menacing in an instant, whether hes appearing in suave black or as a child in striped shirt, dungarees and a cut-out paper crown. Dennis captures the endearing fathers charm, dancing shadow-like with his daughter at her wedding (and in Monica Dottors choreography, echoing Orpheuss steps) and later teaching her Greek words and reading her a Cordelia-Lear scene from Shakespeare.

Lorenzo Savoinis set, a metal wall, becomes all sorts of locales, including an elevator in which it rains. Kimberly Purtells lighting gives the wall a number of vivid hues, and Debashis Sinhas soundscape makes use of dripping water, crashes and other aural effects to suggest an otherworldly setting.

Ultimately, Eurydice is a tale of memory and loss, the difficulty of holding on to the former and the inevitability of the latter. A meditation on the human condition, Ruhls play is tender, rich and moving.

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