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LA Theater Review

Eurydice

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In the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, the great hero Orpheus descends into hell to rescue his recently deceased beloved. The King of the Dead is willing to allow Eurydice to leave with the hero but only if Orpheus can lead her back to the land of the living without looking at her.

There's a reason the legend is known as Orpheus and Eurydice and not Eurydice and Orpheus, as, in the tale, Eurydice is usually little more than cargo: an object to be hauled about the lower levels of hell like a curvy bag of kitty litter. However, playwright Sarah Ruhl's lyrical drama is a feminist reworking of the myth. Although director Trevor Biship's ultra-serious production may lack for scenes in which Eurydice burns her bra or starts lecturing the King of the Dead about Gloria Steinem, the story is nevertheless narrated steadfastly from a contemporary woman's point of view.

In this version of the legend, the love of Eurydice (Dina Percia) and Orpheus (Erwin Tuazon) is already on shaky emotional terrain long before Eurydice dies and winds up in the underworld. Upon arrival in the Land o' the Dead, Eurydice loses any memory of her beloved and instead enjoys long rhapsodic conversations with her doting dead father (Trevor H. Olsen), who's really the only man she ever loved anyway. When Orpheus shows up to rescue Eurydice, he's kind of a pain in the neck, so Eurydice does what she can to sabotage the rescue attempt.

One wishes it were more possible to celebrate this strange and intriguing new take on timeless subject matter, but director Biship's drab, humorless staging is fraught with pacing problems, as well as a ponderous mood that is so top-heavy with self-importance it verges on being unintentionally campy. Ruhl's intermittently pretentious writing style is not well served by the stiff blocking and confused line readings—nor by anemic chemistry between the characters. The ensemble work is uneven, strangely anchored by Percia's weirdly too perky Eurydice, who comes across more as an affable cheerleader than as a luminous beauty. Welcome comic irony is provided by a chorus of talking rocks (Leonard Zanders, Lauren Birriel, and Raymond Lee), but the drab and dreary atmosphere makes the piece a trudge, even for a piece about the underworld.

Presented by Range View Productions at the Hayworth Studio Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. April 10May 16. Thu.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.

(323) 960-7726 or www.plays411.com/eurydice.

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