A new twist on a Greek tale

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What is it? Eurydice, spouse of the demigod musician Orpheus, dies, takes an elevator to the underworld, and makes a choice about life, love, and loss. Locals love this piece already from its pre-Piccolo run. We saw a beautiful marriage of script and players in the early performances. Mayhap some honeymoon bliss to follow?

Why see it? This is not your distant Greek ancestor's mythology. Playwright Sarah Ruhl has thoroughly updated the tale. Eurydice, demure in the traditional tale of Orpheus, gets her say and then some in the story here.

Who should go? Anyone with a love for the classics and for the myths and legends of antiquity (which still influence how we see ourselves and the world around us) as well as those who just love rollicking good storytelling, acting, and music.

PICCOLO SPOLETO • $25 • 1 hour 45 min. • May 23, 24, 26 at 7:30 p.m.; May 25 at 2 p.m. • Noisette, 10 Storehouse Row, North Charleston • (888) 374-2656

She Sees Dead People: A new twist on a Greek tale

click to enlarge eurydice-buzz.jpg

The danger of looking back is losing what we have.

Looking back to see what had become of Sodom and its people is how Lot's wife ended up as a pillar of salt in Genesis.

Bruce Springsteen, in the lyrics of "Glory Days," reminds us how many a former high school superstar has withered into a kind of pillar of salt at the local pub, wallowing in cups and looking back on a time when life was full of worship.

And Orpheus, sweet mythological son of the god Apollo and the muse Calliope, lost the love of his life in an act of looking back.

But it doesn't matter how many times the lesson is taught to us: The fact is that we do look back. Because looking back on what we've gained or lost over time in our lives is a large measure of what makes us human.

New York playwright Sarah Ruhl has expanded on that theme in a modern retelling of the story of the ill-fated marriage of Orpheus and Eurydice. Put simply, it is the story of a lady who dies on her wedding day. Her husband sings so mournfully that the Underworld itself permits him entry, so he may try to persuade its lord, Hades, to allow her to return to life.

Every sad song of mourning and loss has Orpheus somewhere in the harmony, or so the folklore goes.

Loss is for the living, though. The dead, cleansed of memory in the waters of the River Lethe (in this interpretation, the waters take the form of rain in a down-bound elevator), are supposed to be as stones.

Ending up a stone is the chance one takes when wandering off with the Nasty Interesting Man rather than listening to toasts at the wedding reception.

That's one tweak among many in this thoroughly modern take.

Traditionally, Eurydice dies when a venomous snake nips her ankle while she dances in a field (one could view a stranger luring a bride away as a variant of a snakebite), but here it is a fall down the stairs that does the lady in.

Ruhl most sharply deviates from the traditional tale by introducing Eurydice's father. It's an intriguing plot device, one that allows Eurydice to escape her usual place.

Coming to know her father, who preceded her to the Underworld, adds a layer to the story that, for the first time, provides Eurydice, rather than Orpheus, with a decision to be made.

Who or what should she cling to? Who or what should she leave behind?

The folks at PURE Theatre, including director Sharon Graci and a veritable who's who of local acting and musical talent, have, in this story, a subject that all of us contend with on one level or another — and bringing exactly this kind of visceral, gut emotion center stage for contemporary audiences is what PURE does best.


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