by Sarah Ruhl
It is impossible to know me and not have heard me talk about this play.
To me it is the perfect piece of theatre. Running 90 minutes without intermission and dealing with a Classical story in a Modern setting. Poetic language in an abstract telling that requires fantastic design that will evoke the world of the play. A strong female character who we follow on her journey.
This is the story of Eurydice. She is Orpheus’ wife whom he braves the underworld to rescue. This time, however, the story is told from her point of view. The play becomes a story of growing up once she dies and goes to Hades where she is reunited with her Father. Having been dunked in the river Styx during her passage, she has lost her memory and it is up to her Father to teach her everything from how to write to her family history. We hear the old stories that we grew up to in the attic of Grandma’s house, but we hear them as adults; stories woven from memories and love.
The story is simple and childlike. Yet at the same time it is remarkably poignant. The audience recognizes that simplicity in themselves and cannot help but recognize themselves at one point in time. Eurydice and Orpheus are described by the playwright as being “a little too young and a little too in love.”
eurydice I love you too.
orpheus How will you remember?
eurydice That I love you?
eurydice That’s easy. I can’t help it.
orpheus You never know. I’d better tie a string around your finger to remind you.
He takes out a string from his pocket.
He takes her left hand.
orpheus This hand.
He wraps string deliberately around her fourth finger.
eurydice That’s a very particular finger.
eurydice You’re aware of that?
eurydice How aware?
orpheus Very aware.
eurydice Orpheus—are we?
orpheus You tell me.
eurydice Yes. I think so.
orpheus You think so?
eurydice I wasn’t thinking. I mean—Yes. Just: Yes.
He picks her up and throws her into the sky.
eurydice Maybe you could also get me another ring—a gold one—to put over the string one. You know?
orpheus Whatever makes you happy.
Sarah Ruhl has become a very hot playwright, but this earlier play is a gem that will be treasured for years. Go get the play and read it. If there is ever a production near you, go and see it at any costs. There is so much not mentioned here from the loving Orpheus willing to do anything to get his wife back, to the Interesting Man who tries to seduce Eurydice, to the stones who live in the underworld with the pouting king, and Eurydice’s loving and patient Father (who was modeled after Ruhl’s own father as a love story).
Happy Birthday (May 25): Ian McKellan (b. 1939) & Eve Ensler (b. 1953)