The Greystone Theatre’s modern production of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth delivers chills and laughs within a heartbeat of each other.
Simply called Eurydice, the play follows the title character (Ciara Richardson) to her death and beyond, where she finds herself in the underworld with little to no understanding of how she arrived there. Upon finding her Father, who goes unnamed, she begins to remember her life with his help.
Before her death, the story is of two ill-fated lovers — a familiar thread in greek mythology — Eurydice and her husband Orpheus (Robert Grier at the reviewed showing, though he alternates nights with Jesse Fulcher Gagnon), who is known as the greatest musician in the world. Eurydice is quite the opposite and is fascinated by books and philosophy. It often seems as if her husband lost to a symphony in his mind as she tries to talk with him.
While the two have a seemingly dysfunctional relationship based more on poetic language than actual emotion, they do share a certain bond.
There is much tragedy to follow, though Eurydice excels at making the darkness feel like less of a burden on its audience.
The way this is achieved is through an excellent cast of characters that makes the production feel diverse and always interesting. The leads Eurydice and Orpheus carry the play along well, showing emotional depth alongside a youthful playfulness akin to Romeo and Juliet.
Many times, however, the secondary characters steal the scenes with an unexpected sense of dark humor that feels right at home here.
The character known only as Interesting Man is not featured nearly enough, as every scene he is in finds an odd balance between eerie and hilarious. From his fixation on self-described “interesting people” to his phase as a young tricycle riding lord of the underworld, he’s truly an unforgettable character that makes the audience perk up whenever he appears.
The underworld is inhabited by three characters known as the stones: Loud Stone (Mikael Steponchev), Little Stone (Jenna Berenbaum) and Big Stone (Kashtin Moen).
The characters are meant to display and reinforce the rules of hell, setting an example for newcomers, but what they end up becoming are outside viewers to the events happening before them with over-the-top reactions that bring as much dread as they do laughter.
A large focus of the play lands on Eurydice and her Father (Torien Cafferata) rekindling a bond that feels forgotten since her his passing.
The connection between a daughter and father is hard to replicate, especially considering the actors are close in age, but Richardson and Cafferata play the parts expertly. Cafferata, in particular, fully encompasses the with a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge and a series of cheesy jokes.
One of the most important and memorable aspects of the play is the musical accompanyment. Music is an important part of the Orpheus myth as he is known as the greatest composer ever, but in the context of the play it also establishes an uncompromising atmosphere.
The sound design done by Ivan Kolosnjaji and Kody Manson establishes a weighty mood with plenty of mysterious creaks and rattles alongside incredible instrumentation from both electric and acoustic guitars.
The only weakness is that the play opens with a slow scene that’s played somewhat awkwardly, but things quickly pick up momentum and the production becomes riveting and often hilarious. Eurydice should not be missed.
Eurydice is playing now at the Greystone Theatre at the John Mitchell building until Oct. 19. Tickets are available at the door or online at arts.usask.ca/drama/greystone/tickets.php for $20 or $15 for students.
Photo: Gord Waldner/Star Phoenix