Wet and Subtly Wild: Snappy music and a top-notch performance by Rodney Lee Rogers keep Eurydice afloat

In death, as in life, water is the medium of passage, of washing all that is past away.

Accordingly, water — in showers and buckets and squirt guns — abounds in this story of Eurydice, a lady lured to her death on her wedding day by a Nasty Interesting Man/Lord of the Underworld who promises correspondence from her long deceased father.

The water, of course, refers to Lethe, the mythological river in which the dead are dipped to cleanse them of memory. The tension between clinging to the past (and the people loved in it) and the relief that forgetfulness brings is at the heart of the story.

Amanda Franklin Johnson brings a childlike sense of innocence and charm to the title character. When her father, played by PURE Theatre co-founder Rodney Lee Rogers, takes her under his wing in the ultimate land down under, there is a heartbreaking sense of rediscovery.

Here, Rogers is an amazing stage presence, as he is in nearly every performance he gives. He can barely tap the brim of his hat and — bam! — all eyes in the audience follow like he has them on a leash. Magic.

While husband Orpheus, played by College of Charleston graduate Brian Smith, frets in the world of the living, orchestrating his music into a means of returning Eurydice to him, father and daughter share stories and forge new connections between them.

PURE makes excellent use of the spacious digs at 10 Storehouse Row. The concrete and steel back alley feel of the outdoors space, sprinkled with tricycle, swing, and merry-go-round, lends a bit of strangeness to the set that works quite well for the Underworld scenes.

Special kudos must go to Nathan Koci, Bill Carson, and Ron Wiltrout, not only for their rock-solid portrayal of the Underworld’s Stones, but for the keeping the musical tone of the story shifting with the scenes.

By the way, the original music in the play, composed by Nathan Koci, is a great teaser for anyone interested in what local arts organization New Music Collective is all about. A handful of old standards — some Gershwin and “Don’t Sit under the Apple Tree” — are mixed with the original stuff, all good rousing ditties sure to keep any story of young love rolling forward.

But good music is to be expected in any telling of the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. The music of Orpheus is left to the imagination for the large part, which is a reasonable enough stratagem. How do you re-create on stage sounds that could call the birds down from the heavens, lull lions into rolling belly-up in the grass like kittens, or bid the ground open up and allow descent into the world of the dead?

The play follows a meandering path through ideas of memory and forgetfulness while both exploring and contrasting connections between fathers and daughters and husbands and wives. On the whole, the play could use a bit of tightening up in spots, but the music and the standout performance by Rogers makes it well worth the trip.

Eurydice • Piccolo Spoleto’s Theater Series • $25 • 1 hour 45 min. • May 24, 26 at 7:30 p.m.; May 25 at 2:30 p.m. • Noisette, 10 Storehouse Row, 2120 Avenue “D”/Noisette Blvd., North Charleston •(888) 374-2656


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