Orpheus and Eurydice (Sam Mickel, CC ’14 and Anya Whelan-Smith, BC ’13)

The Barnard Theatre Department’s production of Eurydice, written by Sarah Ruhl and directed by David Paul, opens today. Details about showtimes and ticket prices are available here. Bwog’s Executive Drama Devotee, Kyra Bloom, attended a preview.

Some of the most highly regarded art of today is still based on ideas born in Greek mythology.  “Orpheus and Eurydice,” an inherently artistic myth, tells the heart-breaking tale of a musician who is given the chance to reconnect with his dead lover, but then loses it.  The Department’s rendition of Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice certainly did the beloved story justice.   Ruhl’s succinct text brings light and new dimensions to the myth, and the students in this production only delved further to bring her creation to life.  Performing amid a sea of turquoise-azure tiles, the cast turned this beautifully surreal piece into an emotional reality.

Before the play even begins, the audience is transported to a beach so picturesque it could be the backdrop for a black and white film, if not for the vivid blues and greens.  The set is a perfect playground for the ecstatic young lovers Orpheus and Eurydice (Sam Mickel, CC ’14 and Anya Whelan-Smith, BC ’13) to frolic and share a tender moment.  Mickel portrays Orpheus as an awkward, foot-shuffling musician and delivers one of the most honest performances in the show.

The plot unfolds as elements of the fantastic kick in—Hari Nef, CC ’15, enters, appropriately cast as the Nasty Interesting Man.  Nef has an exquisite comprehension of the text—every word is calculated and spoken with purpose.  Julianna Fox, Visiting Student, plays an absurd counterpart as the Lord of the Underworld.  Her portrayal of a little boy is creepily accurate, and every line she delivers deserves a laugh.  These two provide for a weird outlet of comic relief, along with the Stones, played by Molly Forgang, BC ’15, Carly Ginsberg, BC ’15, and Maria Diez, CC ’15, who are a bizarre trio of cute, angry law-enforcers.

One would be remiss not to note the utility of perhaps the greatest set piece, the beach shower.  In Ruhl’s strange Underworld, the newly dead are doused with water, thereby cleansing their memories.  Whelan-Smith has all the innocence of a young adult in love at the beginning of the piece, and it is heart breaking when she struggles to remember words from her past.  Her monologues evoke the audience’s deepest sympathy, and we want to cry for her when she cannot cry herself.  Whelan-Smith’s onstage prowess is magnetic and characteristic of a far more seasoned actor.

In a cast with no weak link, Ben Russell, CC ’13, must be commended above all.  His portrayal of Eurydice’s father is almost too real for a young man who has not yet experienced parenting.  He is, appropriately, uncomfortable with his daughter’s emotional outbursts and is sincere in all respects.  He and Whelan-Smith are the heart and soul of the show, pulling the audience into all-too-familiar territory.

David Paul’s inventive directing combined with incredible artistry from both the cast and the creative team makes for a beautiful show.  The lighting and sound cues, too, are nearly impeccable.  This is a remarkable piece of theatre on any level, so take advantage of the fact that it’s on our campus.  Tickets are nearly sold out—deservedly so—but certainly do what you can to see this play before the weekend is over.