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Published: Saturday, 9/13/2008

Updated myth offers a timeless message

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Glacity Theatre Collective has mounted a mesmerizing production of Sarah Ruhl s Eury-dice. a whimsical drama that enthralls from start to finish.

Everything from doctoral theses to dramas to operas to ballets have been inspired by the Greek myth of Orpheus, who mourned his beloved bride (she died on their wedding day) so much that he traveled to the underworld to retrieve her, only to lose her again.

One may wonder if there s anything new to say, but Ruhl found a way.

She looks at the myth from the point of view of the wife, considers a father-daughter relationship, and ponders the value of the arts all within a 90-minute framework.

Oh yes, there s a tricycle-riding Lord of the Underworld and talking stones, too.

Running through Sept. 20 in the beautiful Millennium Theatre on the Maumee Valley Country Day School campus, Ruhl s updated version opens on the beach, where the attractive Eurydice strives mightily to get Orpheus to pay attention to her. He s distracted by the music that continually plays in his head, especially the symphony she has inspired. She s flattered, of course, but she would like some conversation, maybe a few compliments, a feeling that he knows she s there.

When Orpheus finally pays attention, Eurydice tries to talk about books that she s read, but Orpheus isn t terribly interested. Why bother with someone else s thoughts? he wonders. Isn t originality better? He finally realizes he s gone too far, and in an amusing and quite affecting scene, he proposes.

On her wedding day, Eurydice meets a stranger who says he has a letter for her from her father. She is skeptical her father has been dead for several years. She s also curious and excited. Her father taught her to love books, and she knows he understood her better than her new husband does.

Eurydice s curiosity is her downfall, and bewildered, she finds herself in a strange place, where it rains in the elevator, there are no rooms, and a Greek chorus of stones warns her that the best way to survive is to forget you ever lived.

But not everyone forgets.

Eurydice s father remembers, and he is determined to make her remember. He patiently tells her stories and helps her recall her life and her love for Orpheus. And when Orpheus challenges the Lord of the Underworld and wins the right to have her live again, Eurydice s father is the first to urge her to go, even though her absence will be too hard to bear.

Thus, love and loss continue their unending cycle.

The performances are stunning, beginning with Nikki Soldner as Eurydice. A recent graduate of the University of Toledo, Soldner gives a performance of many textures, from a giddy girl in love to a new bride wondering what she s gotten herself into to a woman who understands that love and pain go hand in hand.

Kevin Barron plays Orpheus as a bit of a self-centered goof. A brilliant musician, he has trouble believing that any of the other arts i.e. literature are nearly as worthy. Barron, a theater graduate of Ohio Wesleyan, has performed at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, the JET theater in Detroit, and in Athens, Greece.

Eurydice s father is played by Dave DeChristopher, a Toledo native and member of Actors Equity, who spent 24 years working as an actor, director, and teaching artist in New York. One of the founders of Glacity, DeChristopher has appeared in its previous productions of Who s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Breathing Corpses.

Ben Pryor, chairman of the department of philosophy at UT, is a smarmy but charismatic Lord of the Underworld, and Matthew Gretzinger, Sherri Siniff, and Tyree Troutman are, respectively, Big Stone, Small Stone, and Loud Stone, sometimes humorous, sometimes frightening.

Director Cornel Gabara, scenic designer James Hill, musician David Jex, and costumer Holly Monsos have added a variety of striking details that contribute mightily to the enjoyment of the production.

Eurydice may be a play about love and death, but is just as much a play about enjoying the wonders of life. As I said, it s mesmerizing.

Eurydice continues at 8 tonight, 2:30 p.m. tomorrow, and 8 p.m. Sept. 18-20 in the Millennium Theater at Maumee Valley Country Day School, 1715 South Reynolds Rd. Tickets are $15 (cash or check only). Last-minute student rush seating may be available for $5, and tomorrow s matinee features pay-what-you-can pricing. Information: 419-530-2254.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com or 419-724-6130.



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