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PacRep’s Eurydice a Quest for Meaning

With many charming moments, memorable imagery, skilful acting and stagecraft all supported by artful scenic devices turning the black box Circle Theatre into a beach, a penthouse and later the uncertain banks of the River Styx, PacRep Theatre’s Eurydice remains an outline sketch of something that could be extraordinarily beautiful.

It’s safe to count on the acting with PacRep—and this play is ably-bodied.  Julian Lopez-Morillas as the Father is as safe and kind as any girl’d want her father to be, played with an affable naturalism that carries Lopez-Morilla through some scenes that demand nuanced physical acting and others requiring magician-like misdirection for their impact. Contrasting with his naturalism, Jennifer Le Blanc as Eurydice played everything big, chest-out aggressive—a forcefulness not entirely out of place for her role/s as a debutante bride then dead person. This assured energy sagged convincingly in response to her new status as the potential queen of the Underworld, but even the threat of her erasure within the River Styx held less poignancy than it should, for her character was never really touchingly alive. 

Not so Carl Holvick-Thomas as Orpheus, played with all the self-possession and insouciance of privilege that could as easily be attributed to a fair-haired rich boy as to a god—whatever—he is easy in his skin and fun to watch. We meet him and Eurydice chasing each other wearing swimsuits, throwing a beach ball and gamboling energetically and romantically, two golden youths, making plans.

Enter the villain, A Nasty Interesting Man/Lord of the Underworld played with baffling moustache-twirling (if he had a moustache) vamping camp by Michael Wiles.  His pivotal role as the driver of the plot, the archetypal vain, strutting spoiler of virgins and ruler of death is reduced to a level of ridiculousness that is at first amusing then just silly. 

Despite a wonderfully convincing scene in which the new bride Eurydice has spurned his advances and falls to her death, fabulously conveyed by lighting and the projections which provide the sense of place for the play’s set-less space, the director, Kenneth Kelleher here begins to lose control of the story.

Playwright Sarah Rule’s take on the myth of Orpheus and his lost love Eurydice emphasizes Eurydice’s journey through overworld and underworld instead of the myth’s usual focus on the heroic quest of Orpheus, the god of music, traveling through the underworld to bring back his bride from death.  Orpheus in this production just seems like a nice young man determined to find his bride—but the heroic quest never enters the picture; his defiance of death, his deal with the gods, his musical charms and mythical stance is never really conveyed, and thus the story never has power.

We are left with wonderful images—a dead father mailing letters to his daughter soon to be a bride; Eurydice encountering the denizens of the underworld—a Greek chorus voiced by three Stones played in garb reminiscent of the French Revolution—why?—doesn’t matter, they are curious but effective conveyers of the rules and regulations of the twighlight world Eurydice enters after her tragic escape from the clutches of the Nasty Interesting Man; an image: the long-dead father inducting his newly arrived daughter into the ways of the depths, creating for her a “house” of strings he pulls from above; Eurydice squatting in her familiar suitcase, under the umbrella she brought, in the string house her father drew from the darkness.  There are lovely, poignant and memorable moments, but the play tragically loses its power to affect the emotions because, whether we are involved with gods or humans, the audience needs to understand where we are journeying as we share the voyage through this dark and admittedly fascinating space.


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