In classic Greek mythology, Eurydice was a goddess who loved hard and died young. She was the wife of Orpheus, “the greatest musician in the world.” On their wedding day, Eurydice is bitten by a snake and sent spiraling into the Underworld. Though reunited with her father, Apollo, the goddess feels she’s abandoned Orpheus. When her grieving husband travels to this “Land of the Dead” in hopes of bringing her back to life, Eurydice is forced to choose not only between life and death, but father and husband.
As one would imagine, the story of Eurydice has been a source of inspiration for a coliseum full of creative takes on the myth, from poems and books to paintings and films. It has also wrought a raft of writings, everything from Freudian dissertations to feminist polemics.
In her groundbreaking one-act play called, appropriately enough, Eurydice, playwright Sarah Ruhl reimagines the myth through the eyes of the goddess. First produced in 2003, this dark dramatic comedy is essentially a study in grief and loss. It will be staged by Masque, three evenings this week.
Who: HUA and Masque
What: Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl
Where: Little Theatre
When: February 12-14 at 7 p.m.
Lena Pafumi is the production’s director. When asked how this ancient tale fits into contemporary times, she says, “Part of why Greek mythology keeps coming up in modern times is because the lessons they teach us will always be relevant. Throughout Eurydice we watch the characters experience love and loss over and over again. The show involves temptation, heartbreak, and death. These are things that we will all deal with personally at one time or another in real life.”
Pafumi is a veteran of Masque and other WPI theatre productions. A senior majoring in management engineering, she says playwright Ruhl has been quoted as saying, “I think Eurydice is complicated because she’s human, which was the point of my revisiting her. Anyone who bravely faces her fate could be heroic. Maybe that’s all we can ask of someone.” Pafumi adds, “Does Eurydice stay with her father or does she go back to Orpheus? Ruhl paints Eurydice with more color than she is presented with in the original myth and in combination with seeing her father again, we can really begin to sink into Eurydice’s perspective.”
In its review of the play, the New York Timescalled Eurydice “Rhapsodically beautiful. A weird and wonderful new play—an inexpressibly moving theatrical fable about love, loss, and the pleasures and pains of memory.”
Speaking of selecting it to stage at WPI, Masque president Pafumi says, “For me, Eurydice was exactly what I was looking for. It’s dark, funny in ways you don’t expect, and gives more people the opportunity to act. It seems like Ruhl wrote Eurydice for the director and designer, there are so many elements to play around with and there are tons of possibilities.”
As director, Pafumi says she was looking for the actors to “truly take on the roles they’ve been given and step outside of themselves, as well as their comfort zones. I want them to ask questions about what they are doing on stage and find motivation behind every line. When you watch a play, you can tell the difference between actors who are just saying their lines and actors who are fully encompassed in a moment, putting purpose and meaning to their words and actions.”
The cast includes Emma Raymond (Eurydice), Dylan Shields (Orpheus), Dan Corwin (Father), Robert Boulanger (Nasty Interesting Man/Child), Alicia Weber (Big Stone), Maeve McCluskey (Little Stone), and Rachel Rynazewski (Loud Stone).
As far as the audience takeaway from this production, Pafumi says, “I hope that audience members can see beyond the weird quirks of the play and really take in the characters and the message they are trying to send. I want people to realize that you need to appreciate those that are close to you while you have them. Everything in life has the potential to change and you don’t want to be caught wishing you could relive moments from the past.”