- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A bookworm falls in love with a musician. Her head dances with words, his with music. They marry, and on their wedding day, she slips out of the reception to get a drink of water and never returns. Distraught, her husband braves the Underworld and Hades to retrieve his bride.

With playful touches of surrealism and artfully elliptical language, playwright Sarah Ruhl re-imagines the Orpheus myth from the female point of view in “Eurydice.” The play is a graceful, seriocomic look at love, loss and the stillness of memory at Round House Theatre under the direction of Derek Goldman.

The Greek myth, immortalized in Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” centers on the grieving Orpheus, who uses his gift of music to charm Hades into allowing Eurydice to follow him back up to the land of the living. A backward glance, Hades warns, will mean Eurydice will be lost to Orpheus. He cannot resist a look, and the pair is once again separated by death, this time forever.

In Miss Ruhl’s modernistic and mournful version, Orpheus (Adriano Gatto, (disheveled and fervent as a creative type) gnashes his teeth and pens frenzied love letters to his love, but in actuality, Eurydice (Jenna Sokolowski) takes the more potent journey. Her travels to the Underworld involve a river journey in a coffinlike boat, a clanging freight elevator and persistent rain. Most grievous of all, no one down there speaks her language, especially a trio of antagonistic Stones (KenYatta Rogers, Linden Tailor, Susan Lynskey) who function as a braying Greek chorus and urge Eurydice to take a dip in the river of forgetfulness and free herself of memory.

However, tender mercies exist, even in the Underworld. Eurydice is reunited with her father (Harry A. Winter), who first builds her a room made out of red string the way a dad would fashion a treehouse for his child and then tenderly schools her in remembering earthly love and family and a shared appreciation of Shakespeare. (They read from “King Lear” together.) Miss Ruhl seems to suggest that while romance casts its giddy spell, it’s the relationship between father and daughter that holds elemental resonance. The scenes between Eurydice and her father are devastatingly lovely, with Miss Sokolowski and Mr. Winter conveying the depth and discovered affection of a long-lost bond.

Yet the emotional pull of romantic love tugs Eurydice back to the surface. Staying with her father, going with Orpheus - both involve loss, sadness and living with recollections of fleeting warmth and joy. Better to forget, whisper the Stones, and languish in wordless peace.

“Eurydice” may sound like a dirge, but luminous moments and touches of puckish humor keep the play from striking a lone elegiac note. The decision to render the Stones as annoyingly slapstick figures from the circus is the only instance when the play descends into preciousness.

★ ★★

WHAT:”Eurydice” by Sarah Ruhl

WHERE: Round House Theatre Bethesda, 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Through March 1.

TICKETS: $25 to $60

PHONE: 240/644-1387

WEB SITE: www.roundhousetheatre.org


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