Directed by Richard J. Roberts. I cried here and there during Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice, and then sobbed after it, in the same way, I think, that my grandmother used to weep over Madame Butterfly. These tears are not about romantic loss, but about a new, unforeseen loss that we both experienced, to be so moved by a work of art that it's hard to imagine how life will ever compare.
Playwright Sarah Ruhl creates her art not with the soul piercing arias but with funny, magical and still soul piercing poetry. In her version of the Greek myth, Eurydice (Amanda Meyer) is seduced by death, a darkly enticing Lord of the Underworld (Logan Moore), because she misses her deceased father (Bradley Bankemper) and perhaps because she's not sure her husband Orpheus (Tyler Ostrander) can ever compare to him or her love of words.
Rest assured, none of this is spelled out, but revealed by the lovers' actions and Ruhl's dreamlike conception of the real world and the underworld. In the latter, three tough-talking stones, dressed like fashionistas, continually remind Eurydice that she is out of her depth. She tries to re-create life with her father and almost makes it work, but Hades, now an obnoxious tricycle-riding boy, wants to marry her. The scenes are comic, lyrical and nightmarish, and while the dialogue can be analyzed seriously, the play does not carry the burden of being "serious."
The words of Ruhl, who started her career as a poet, could have a full life on the page, but on the Butler stage they are expanded by an inspiring melding of theatrical elements. Robert Koharchik's (a regular at both Butler and Indiana Repertory Theater) set of cables pulled from floor to rafters create a purposefully disorienting living world and strangely cozy after life. In ways both subtle and dramatic, his lighting signals the characters' content and confusion, their bliss and despair. Sarah Conyers-Comte's costumes place the lead characters in a funky eternal youth, quasi 1950s. Sound designer Jeff Casazza pulls out literal bells and whistles, along with haunting themes for composer Orpheus and sentimental strings for father and daughter.
Under Richard J. Roberts' (resident dramaturg at the IRT) direction, the all-student cast delivers pathos and dead pan humor with remarkably mature cadence and physicality. My only criticism was that they might have used movement even more.
If I seem to gush, it is because Roberts has assembled the right talent and edited it and molded it in a way few directors do in Indianapolis, probably anywhere. His Eurydice is delightful, upsetting, and curious, just what theater ought to be.