A Noise Within continues its Spring 2013 season, one with a decidedly more modern spin than is usual at California’s Home For The Classics, with Eurydice, Sarah Ruhl’s magical, mystical, poetic retelling of the Orpheus myth from the point of view of his bride.

E064-1024x765 “Quirky, whimsical, and ultimately quite moving” is how I described Ruhl’s The Clean House a few years back, words that apply equally to Eurydice, a fantasy-myth-fairytale which begins with its romantic heroine and hero (Jules Willcox as Eurydice and Graham Sibley as Orpheus) in vintage 1950s swim gear using language that might sound stilted if it weren’t so darned gorgeous, as when musician Orpheus tells Eurydice, “I’m going to make each strand of your hair into an instrument. Your hair will stand on end as it plays my music and become a hair orchestra. It will fly you up into the sky.” Sigh…

At the heart of Eurydice is memory … and the importance it holds in our lives. Orpheus ties a string around Eurydice’s ring finger to remind her of his love. Soon after, Eurydice’s deceased father (Geoff Elliott) writes her from the underworld that “I am one of the few dead people who still remembers how to read and write. That’s a secret. If anyone finds out, they might dip me in the river again.”

E067-819x1024 When A Nasty Interesting Man (Ryan Vincent Anderson) in top hat and flamboyant black opera cape, entices Eurydice from her wedding reception to his apartment with the promise of her father’s letter, his attempted seduction of the young bride sends her fleeing down a flight of stairs and falling to her death, only to arrive in the underworld stripped of memories of her life and unable to read the letters Orpheus has written her from the world above.

E106-1024x743 Kelly Ehlert as Loud Stone, Abigail Marks as Big Stone, and Jessie Losch as Little Stone serve as Eurydice’s Greek Chorus, a trio of zanies who behave in the playwright’s words like “nasty children at a birthday party” and describe their language of the dead in quintessentially Ruhlian terms as sounding at once “like if the pores in your face opened up and talked” and “like potatoes in the dirt.”

E282-1024x819 Yes indeed, the world of Sarah Ruhl is about as fanciful as worlds get, and never more so than when the previously seen Nasty Interesting Man shows up again as The Lord Of The Underworld in the first of several incarnations. Originally glimpsed as a bratty child on a tricycle, this Underworld Lord in First Grader mode claims to “grow downward, like a turnip” but in fact returns having sprung up (in Ruhl’s words) “at least ten feet tall.”

The universe Sarah Ruhl creates is one quite unlike that of any other playwright I’m familiar with, and one that not all audience members may embrace as enthusiastically as this reviewer. (The New York Observer famously headlined its review of a 2007 production, “Curiouser and Curiouser! Ruhl Wrecks Eurydice With Whimsy”. Ouch!)

Whimsical Eurydice is indeed, as are Ruhl’s other plays reviewed on this site (The Clean House, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, and In The Next Room (or the vibrator play), but I for one happen to love Ruhl’s brand of whimsy, and her Eurydice is no exception.

E178-819x1024 Director Geoff Elliott wisely has Eurydice’s romantic heroes and our heroine’s father (Elliott himself) play it straight, honest, and real, an approach which allows us to identify with and respond to this classic story of love and forgetfulness, whether it is young lovers (Willcox, gorgeous and captivating, Sibley, dashing and dauntless, and both of them splendid) striving to keep the memory of their love alive, or a father (Elliott, as simple and touching as I’ve ever seen him) striving to teach his daughter a language she has forgotten.

Other characters are allowed to ham things up (in the best possible sense of the verb), beginning with Anderson’s deliciously debonair Nasty Interesting Man, his wild-and-crazy trike-riding brat of a Lord Of The Underworld, and his imposingly ten-foot-tall Lord in Grown-Up mode. As for the three stones, Ehlert, Marks, and Losch simply couldn’t be more hilariously, delightfully ditzy—and in perfect three-stone sync for much of the dialog Ruhl assigns them.

E186-819x1024 Sharing credit for the enchantment that takes place on the A Noise Within stage is a crackerjack team of designers who bring Ruhl’s fantasy world to vivid, imaginative life: Angela Balogh Calin’s fabulously fanciful costumes and Monica Lisa Sabedra’s matching hair, wig, and makeup design, Rachel Yaron’s many whimsical props, Meghan Gray’s strikingly gorgeous lighting, Doug Newell’s bewitching sound design, and Jeanine A. Ringer’s simple sky-blue scenic design onto which the evening’s indisputable design star Brian Gale paints the myriad images of his breathtaking projection design. Oh, and composer-musician Endre Balogh stays always close by to provide a live musical underscoring on violin.

Elna Kordjan is stage manager, Gray production manager, Seth Walter technical director, Maria Uribe head stitcher, Yaron assistant scenic designer, Oldga Benenson assistant stage manager, Brandon Hawkinson assistant lighting designer, and Erin Neel dramaturg.

Though not everyone may respond as positively as I did to Ruhl’s classic Greek myth as seen with “Through The Looking Glass” eyes, those willing and to take this whimsical journey through time and space will find it a magical one indeed.

A Noise Within, 3352 East Foothill Blvd, Pasadena.

–Steven Stanley
March 16, 2013
Photos: Craig Schwartz

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