Loss. It’s not easy for anyone to discuss. Everyone deals with loss in different ways. Carousel Theatre of Indianola is exploring the process of dealing with losing a loved one in their current production of Sarah Ruhl’s “Eurydice,” which opens on March 6. While the subject matter may be challenging to discuss, this production delicately brings this beautiful show to its audience.
If the title character Eurydice sounds familiar to you, it may be from studying the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Or it could also be from seeing or listening to the music of 2019’s Best Musical Tony Award-Winning production of “Hadestown.” “Eurydice,” starts two people, Orpheus and Eurydice, on a beach where Orpheus proposes. In the background, we see an older man watching. We soon find out this is Eurydice’s father, who passed away when she was young. We see him imagining being at their wedding.
When the wedding day comes, Eurydice goes outside to get a drink when she meets the Nasty Interesting Man, who she follows to his high rise apartment. When she decides to leave, she trips and falls to her death. The next time we see her, she is entering the Underworld, unaware of her former life. It is there she meets her father but doesn’t remember him. As he helps her remember her life in the Underworld, in our world, Orpheus is struggling as he copes with the loss of Eurydice. He works until he can find a way to travel to the Underworld to bring her back. But what is the cost once he gets there. And can he and Eurydice come to terms with the price? That you will have to go to the production to see.
How do you take a classic story such as the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, and make it applicable to today’s audience? One of the things you need is a director with a strong vision of what the story could become. Chris Williams’s beautiful vision for this show takes this classic story and makes it accessible to today’s modern audience. He beautifully weaves each aspect of the show together, from the technical elements to the acting on stage, to make this a timeless story relatable to each audience member.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed about being a board member for Carousel the last few years is seeing Carousel taking on new challenges, both in the shows it chooses, as well as the technical needs of each show. “Eurydice” presented Carousel with a new set of technical challenges. Chris Williams has put a team of designers together, who can bring his fantastic vision to life. Natalie Hining’s amazing scenic design first appears as a doc by the sea, but slowly reveals itself to something that resembles a child’s nursery. Marcia Peeler’s timeless costume designs tackle the idea of bringing the past to the present by designing timeless costumes. At times the costumes remind you of a bygone era, and at other times feels like they can be found in the clothing people wear today.
The sound design by Tim Williams gives the audience an incredible soundscape that transports the audience between the known world and the Underworld. One of my favorite moments takes place at the beginning of the show as we see Eurydice’s father imagining walking her down the aisle. While it starts with familiar wedding music, it slowly starts distorting to remind us we are in the Underworld. Shawn Jensen’s fantastic lighting design gives us a familiar wash when we aren’t in the Underworld, but once we enter the Underworld, we get a colorful wash that cast colorful shadows around the set.
Not only does “Eurydice” challenge Carousel’s designers to take their designs to a new level, but it also gives the actors a challenge that takes their performances to new levels. One example of this can be seen in the stones played by Michelle Vaudrin (Little Stone), Molly Larche (Big Stone), and Amanda Jackson (Loud Stone). While their characters serve as the ensemble/Greek chorus in this production, they have made distinct choices that make each of their respective stones stand out in unique ways. The fantastic performances continue with Joel Hade’s and Alex Lindsley’s performances as Father and Orpheus, respectively. Each of them giving one of their most emotional performances.
While the cast for “Eurydice” features mostly actors who have been seen previously on Carousel’s stage, Shawn Pavlik is making his Carousel debut in the dual role of Nasty Interesting Man/Lord of the Underworld. If you’ve been to other theatres in the Des Moines area, you may have seen him on stage in one of many productions he has been in spanning from Newton to Leon. While he brings something different to each of his characters, he gives some similar character choices that tie the two characters together.
Andra Peeler DiMarco, as the newlywed Eurydice, returns to the Carousel stage after getting married this fall. Her performance takes audience members on an emotional journey, from the joys of marriage to the confusion of being in an unfamiliar place, which she delivers beautifully. Each of these builds to a powerful ending as her character deals with the losses she goes through.
Seeing theatres take on new challenges is always exciting for me to see. Carousel’s production of “Eurydice” has taken on these challenges and gives the audience a production they won’t soon forget. Tickets are available at the door for each performance. To find out more about Carousel Theatre, visit https://carouseltheatre.org/.
Review written by DC Felton
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