Eurydice at Theatre in the Round

Photo by Twin Cities Headshots

Eurydice is the third Sarah Ruhl production to be staged in less than a year. Last March, Theatre Pro Rata gave us the gender non-conforming story of Orlando. It was then followed last summer with Yellow Tree theaters, In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play). I enjoyed both of those works immensely, and given the season Theatre in the Round Players (TRP) has been having, expectations were high for this one. What can I say, TRP is on a roll, this is another winner. Perhaps their most accomplished set and lighting design ever, certainly the best I’ve seen. Sarah Ruhl is working her way up my list of favorite playwrights as well with another thought provoking and engaging script.

Not being a student of mythology I was grateful that I’d recently had a little refresher in the form of last springs Hadestown tour at the Orpheum of the Orpheus myth from which Eurydice is another interpretation of. The main difference in this telling, it’s not Orpheus’ story but Eurydice’s. Not set in ancient times but in a version of our own world. Ruhl also makes other changes to the basic story, in her version, Eurydice’s father is already dead and writes her a letter for her wedding day, which he hopes will somehow reach her in the land of the living. The letter is found instead by The Nasty Interesting Man/Lord of the Underworld (Hades for short), who lures her away from her wedding party by promising to show her the letter which says was delivered by mistake to his high-rise apartment. Rather than being killed by a snake, she instead falls in her attempt to escape Hades’ unwanted seduction. When she arrives in the underworld she is greeted by The Stones, Six stones who can talk and move and function as Ruhls unique take on a greek chorus. Her memory of the upper world is mostly gone and the the language of the underworld is limited. It’s in these moments that Ruhl finds a way to inject humor into the production. The underworld is surreal, reminding one at times of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Her Father finds her and though she doesn’t know him at first, he eventually gets through to her and her memories begin to return. Throughout her time down below, Orpheus is trying to reach her. He’ll eventually make his way to her and this will be set up the traditional chance to lead her back to the land of the living. Where as long as he doesn’t look back to make sure she is following him they can both return to the upper world.

This is a superb cast led by Eva Gemlo as Eurydice. Gemlo gives a nimble performance switching direction, emotion, and style from moment to moment and exceling every step of the way. She’s light and breezy at the opening as she is enjoying living and loving and when she first arrives in the underworld she doesn’t miss a beat as she goes into absurdist nonsensical comedy mode. There is a decided lack of heat or chemistry between her and Troy Lowry, Jr.’s Orpheus. The real emotion comes through in the relationship with her Father played by Jim Ahrens. Both Gemlo and Ahrens sell the father daughter relationship to the point where it’s unclear if Ruhl’s intention is to pivot the heart of the play from the romantic relationship we normally associate with the story, to that of the familial, or if their performances are responsible for the shift. Either way, the heart lies Gemlo and Ahrens relationship. Corey Boe as Hades, in what I think is the fourth performance I’ve seen him in, finally gets a chance to let down his hair and surprise us. We basically see him in three guises and each is radically different from the others. Always solid in previous roles, this performance gets me excited about him as a performer and looking forward to what he does next. Finally, I have to list the performers who play The Rocks, their movements and vocal timing as the chorus is too perfect and beautiful not to mention each one of them by name. Marie Finch-Koinuma, Lena Menefee-Cook, Morgan Mulford, Tess Rada, Caleb Reich, and Kassy Skoretz.

Sophie Peyton directs the hell (pun intended) out of this production. So many choices are bold and surprising from the use of music to Hades first appearance in the underworld. I’d say, I would love to see what she would do with a Guthrie budget with this play, but I kinda think it wouldn’t make any difference. I don’t think you can improve on what they’ve done here. Bigger doesn’t mean better, and the creativity that has gone into the staging and the performances she’s gotten from this group of artists is everything you could want. There’s something to be said about the intimacy of a smaller theatre, where as is the case here, there are actors sitting next to your seat at times in the aisles. Kelly Nelson is the Movement Director, if you don’t really understand what is meant by that, after you see Eurydice you will. There are moments of movement that feel are simply beautiful in a way I cannot express in words, one of which is Eurydice’s fall and descent into the underworld. The Set and Lighting were co-designed by Crist Ballas and Dietrich Poppen, you can feel how entwined the lighting is with the set. This is the best set design and lighting I’ve ever seen at TRP. I’m going to mention the Assistant Lighting Designer as well Noelle Kirscht, because this is one beautiful looking show. The Costume Designer is Sarah Christenson, there is no way to improve upon the work here, it’s really good. I really loved Hades final costume, it’s a page out of something from a Tim Burton movie. The Sound Designer is Robert Hoffman and it again is just as good as anything I’ve seen at TRP before. I don’t want to leave the wrong impression here, I’ve always really enjoyed TRP, they didn’t need “improving” or anything. That said, something is different this year, they have stepped up their game and I for one am hoping this winning streak lasts a long, long time.

Aside from a fantastic production, this is also one of the most reasonable tickets in town. It’s great that there is a theatre in town offering this level of theatre at prices a family can afford. For more information and to purchase tickets to Eurydice go to

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