/Love and loss in ‘Eurydice’ 
Scene from "Eurydice." Photo by Carter James.

Love and loss in ‘Eurydice’ 

By M.K. Bryant, News editor 

The University of Montevallo Department of Theatre’s production of Sarah Ruhl’s “Eurydice,” directed by Dr. Bart Pitchford, ran from March 7- March 10 in the DiscoverShelby Theater in the Alan and Lindsey Song Center for the Arts. 

Written in 2003, “Eurydice” is a reimagining of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. In this production, Orpheus is played by Jackson Holsomback and Eurydice is played by Shelby Waggoner. Unlike other versions of this myth, the story is primarily told through the perspective of Eurydice, focusing on her time in the Underworld rather than Orpheus’ journey to find her.  

The play starts with Orpheus and Eurydice’s engagement, followed by Eurydice’s deceased father, played by Will Harrell, writing her a letter from the Underworld. This letter finds its way to the world of the living, where it is discovered by a “nasty interesting man,” played by Abby Sledd. On Eurydice’s wedding day, this man uses the letter to lure her into his home, where she falls to her death upon trying to leave.  

Eurydice’s death brings us back to the Underworld, which, in UM’s production, resembles a carnival. Here, we are introduced to the three Stones, who are portrayed in this production as carnival performers. Little Stone, Big Stone and Loud Stone, played respectively by Romeo Grant, Lindley Argo and Maya Mackey, serve as guides to the Underworld, dictating the rules of the setting.  

Eurydice arrives in the Underworld via an elevator that rains, carrying nothing but an umbrella and an empty suitcase. She has no knowledge of her past life, and is only able to speak in the language of the Stones. Upon her arrival, she is greeted by her father, who, to the Stones’ dismay, begins to reconnect with her and educate her on her past life. He creates a room for her made out of rope, despite this being against the rules of the Underworld, and he re-teaches her how to read and speak the language of the living.  

As Eurydice reconnects with her father, Orpheus writes her letters and formulates a plan to journey to the Underworld and find her.  

Upon Orpheus’ arrival in the Underworld, the Lord of the Underworld, who is seemingly implied to be the “nasty interesting man” who lured Eurydice to her death in the first place, informs him that he can take Eurydice back to the world of the living under one condition. Orpheus cannot turn around to look at her as she follows him out.  

Eurydice is informed by her father that, if Orpheus turns around and sees her, she will die a second death and be confined to the Underworld permanently.  

She chooses to follow him. 

Anybody who is familiar with the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice knows how the story ends. It’s always a tragedy. Orpheus always turns to look at Eurydice, and is thus resigned to return to the world of the living without her.  

I’m very familiar with this story—it’s one of my favorite myths. But, during this scene, I found myself rooting for the duo. A small part of me was crossing my fingers, hoping and praying for some sort of change, even though I knew what was coming.  

Eurydice follows Orpheus through the aisles of the theatre, making excellent use of the space, and as Orpheus makes his way up the stairs and into the balcony, Eurydice calls his name from her position on the stage.  

Orpheus turns to look at her, and in a heart-wrenching moment, he and Eurydice are once again separated. However, the story does not end here. 

Devastated by the absence of his daughter, Eurydice’s father allows the Stones to dip him in the River of Forgetfulness, reverting him to a childlike state, similar to the state Eurydice was in when she first arrived in the Underworld. Eurydice returns to him, but it is too late.  

After she discovers her father, the Lord of the Underworld demands that she be his bride. Devastated by the loss of her father and the demands of the Lord of the Underworld, she writes a letter to Orpheus and allows the Stones to dip her in the River as well, resigning herself to the same forgetful fate as her father.  

Soon after this, Orpheus makes his way back to the Underworld via the raining elevator, having died. He finds Eurydice’s letter, but he has already forgotten the language of the living, and he cannot read it.  

This was, by far, one of the most moving productions I have ever seen at the University of Montevallo.  

One detail that stood out to me was the portrayal of the Underworld as a carnival. 

“One of the things that I really love about ‘Eurydice’ is that Sarah Ruhl, in an interview, said that the keys to the world of the play are the Stones. Once you figure out who the Stones are, that is going to drive you through the rest of the play,” Pitchford said. “I started thinking about who I wanted the Stones to be and what they represented. They are, to some extent, the authority of the Underworld. But, in addition to that, they are comic relief.” 

Pitchford explained that, in developing his portrayal of the Stones, he considered how to best create an authoritative figure that could still act as comedic relief.  

“I also started thinking about the growth of Eurydice through this play, and how, when she reaches the Underworld, she is like an infant. She doesn’t know how to communicate, she doesn’t know where she is or what she’s doing there, or any of that stuff. From that point, Father teaches her,” Pitchford said. “By the time she leaves, she’s an adult again. She has the emotional maturity and the intelligence of an adult again, which is why it becomes hard for her to choose whether she wants to go with Father or to go with Orpheus. One of the things I wanted to do was get back to this idea of innocence and memories that exist between parents and children, particularly memories that stick out in a very big way.”  

This thought process is what resulted in the carnival imagery that audiences saw on the Rebecca J. Luker stage during “Eurydice.”  

“The idea of the carnival becomes this symbolism for a thing that would be remembered between a father and a daughter and would help her feel like she’s back in her childhood again,” Pitchford said.  

The UM theatre department’s production of “Eurydice” was filled with rich imagery and heartfelt moments that still remain on my mind over a week later, and will surely stay there for weeks, months and years to come.

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M.K. Bryant is a contributing journalist for The Alabamian. She’s majoring in mass communication with a concentration in multimedia journalism, and she’s double-minoring in theatre and creative writing. When she’s not busy watering her plants or writing, M.K. can probably be found wandering around an art museum or a library.