The Styx and stones of "Eurydice"

by Josh McTaggart

Outside the Loeb Experimental Theater, a child’s tricycle sits abandoned in the hallway. Inside the black box, a glowing river Styx leads the audience from the theater’s entrance to the stage for the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club production of Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice, a contemporary adaptation of the Greek myth.

After reading the play her freshmen year, director Maddy Bersin '14 didn’t think Eurydice would be something she would end up bringing to life at Harvard. "I absolutely loved [the play], but weirdly never thought it was something I would touch," she explains, "It was so beautiful but so stylized."

But when Bersin tried to pick a play to direct this spring, the director quickly realized that Ruhl’s enchanting language was unique, despite her initial apprehension. "I couldn’t remember anything I’d loved as much as I loved Eurydice," Bersin says.

The play follows two lovers, Orpheus and Eurydice, who are torn apart on their wedding day. Their love is put to the test when Eurydice travels to the Underworld in an attempt to find her dead father, leaving Orpheus behind in the Overworld.

Diving into Eurydice requires special attention to space and location, as the play seamlessly shifts between the Overworld and the Underworld. "Neither one is better than the other," Bersin says, "They are not so much competitors as options."

The show’s design aims to bring out the best of these worldly options. Created by Madie Hayes '13 and Heather Mauldin '14, Bersin’s two distinct worlds take on a rather surprising form. "The Overworld," Bersin says, "has a lot of references to the 1940s. Whereas the Underworld looks much more like Alice in Wonderland than Hades."

Beyond design, Bersin is also hoping to distinguish these two worlds through movement. Working with her choreographer, Amanda Reilley, Bersin has tried to establish a pattern for each character in the two worlds. This has been especially necessary for three stone characters, who function much like a Greek Chorus. "There’s no reason a person playing a stone should move like a person," Bersin jokes.

Despite the oddities and the eccentricities of the play, Bersin is confident that the story will still resonate with audiences, "It’s a lot about having your own voice but not really knowing you are." Although the story behind Eurydice may be thousands of years old, this production promises to be relevant and refreshing for a modern audience.