A story of love, loss and language is vividly brought to life by True North Theatre Company in its production of Sarah Ruhl’s “Eurydice” at the Cyrus Pavilion at the University of Maine. The play, first performed a dozen years ago, is based on a Greek myth.
Orpheus was the father of song. His bride, Eurydice, died on their wedding day, and the widower’s sad songs so filled the gods with grief that they sent him to Hades to rescue her. The god of the Underworld agreed to allow Eurydice to return to earth with her husband on one condition — Orpheus should walk in front of her and not look back until after they had both arrived on Earth. He set off with Eurydice following and, in his anxiety, Orpheus turned too soon to look at her. His bride vanished forever.
Ruhl follows that structure as the play begins but in the Underworld, Eurydice finds her dead father and three stones, who act as a chorus commenting on the action. The father, unlike others in the afterlife, has retained his memories. Gently, he coaxes his daughter to remember her life on Earth as he teaches her the meaning of words such as “defunct,” “peripatetic” and “ostracize.”
Director Tricia A. Hobbs and her technical designers push the former sheep barn to its limit to create more than sets, lights and sound. Underscored by original electronic music, composed by Khari Blair, this “Eurydice” has a soundscape that envelops the audience like a shroud.
Windows filled with what look like amber colored panes of glass are suspended above the stage. An old-fashioned pump actually draws water onto the stage and the tiny pool lit from below into which the actors dip their feet is surprisingly effective.
Hobbs, who also designed the set; Blair; and lighting designed Scout Hough executed a finely honed vision that turned the Underworld into a comforting and loving home, nothing like the Hades described in post-Greek most literature. Those technical feats engage theatergoers much as the actors do.
Aimee Gerow as Eurydice and Mark Bilyk as The Father are delightful together. Gerow gives a guileless and joyful performance that has more depth than her portrayals of older more experienced women such as the conniving Mae in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Temperamentally, Bilyk’s father in this production is the opposite his angry Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman.” The actor subtly portrays a patient, loving father who cannot bear to lose his girl a second time. Their performances are the heart and the soul of the play.
Garrett Moyer sweetly portrays the loving husband Orpheus, but he and Gerow have little spark. The actor is as sincere as Gerow is guileless.
Jasmine Ireland and Tyler Costigan as the Lord of the Underworld and A Nasty Interesting Man light up the stage in their brief appearances. Holly Costar, John Sidenberg II and Jenny Hancock bring levity to the stage as the stones.
True North’s production of “Eurydice” deserves a much larger audience than the two dozen or so people who showed up for Saturday’s performance. This story of loss and learning to live with it warrants the same full house the company’s production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” bought in last January.
“Eurydice” will be performed through Sunday at the Cyrus Pavilion at the University of Maine. For more information, call 207-619-4833 or visit truenorththeatre.org.