“Raspberries, peaches and plums drop from the ceiling into the River” is not a typical stage direction for a Greek tragedy.
And Pulitzer Prize finalist Sarah Ruhl’s 2003 play “Eurydice” is not the typical Greek tragedy, Maya Seidler ’11 said. The play’s quirky nature made Seidler fall in love with it and apply for a Sudler Grant to direct “Eurydice,” which premieres this Thursday at the Off-Broadway Theater.
Ruhl, who studied at Brown under Paula Vogel — chair of Yale School of Drama’s playwriting department and playwright-in-residence at the Yale Repertory Theatre — wrote in an e-mail that she is “thrilled” that “Eurydice” is being produced on the Yale campus once again. “Eurydice” was staged at the Yale Rep in 2006.
As Seidler searched over the summer for a play she could direct this fall, she said, she looked for something that would allow her to explore.
“Eurydice” provided just that.
“I love how whimsical it is,” Seidler said. “It has fun elements with a great amount of depth.”
But these “fun elements” come packaged within a traditional tragic plot that involves death, mourning and loss.
“Eurydice,” one of Ruhl’s earliest plays, retells the classic Greek tale of Orpheus’ journey into the underworld from the perspective of his wife, Eurydice. One of the first productions of Seidler said her vision for the play emphasizes experimenting with space. At the black box Off-Broadway Theater, the audience will be seated on either side of the actors, who move between the real world and the underworld, represented by opposite ends of the stage. This set-up, Seidler said, creates a “watery” flow that allows for smoother back-and-forth motion as the characters make the symbolic journey between the worlds of life and death.
Emma Barash ’11, who stars as Eurydice, said she was inspired by Ruhl’s “magical” writing.
“She finds a way to use abstract images to reveal such concrete things about how people feel in a way that I’ve never seen,” Barash said. “It’s metaphoric and abstract, but they speak in really plain language.”
With the deaths of three Yale community members over the past week, the prevalent themes in “Eurydice” — the inevitability of death and the complexity of the grieving process — have gained additional significance that will resonate with the Yale community, Barash and two other actors interviewed said.
Through Ruhl’s unique style, the audience members can envelop themselves within the story to gain a more thorough understanding of the work’s meaning, Jamie Biondi ’12, who plays Eurydice’s father, said.
“If you dive in and willingly suspend disbelief, then you put yourself in the world that she creates,” Biondi said. “It’s a really cool world.”
During scene changes for “Eurydice,” the production features music composed by Tim Duncheon ’10, as well as the music that Ruhl calls for in the script, which ranges from classical to death metal.
Ruhl’s 2004 play “The Clean House,” a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, premiered at the Yale Rep, while her “Passion Play” was produced at the Yale Rep last fall. Her latest play, “In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play),” is slated to open at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway in New York City on Nov. 22.