Thursday, December 03, 2009

Orpheus X

Persephone stands in the underworld, "living" with a vicarious childishness through Eurydice, who follows her compulsion to write until the glass walls are bleeding with the chalk of Greek characters. "One isn't disappointed when it ends," she says of Eurydice's writing. "One isn't surprised when it begins. Like a list, you accept its terms and let it run until it stops." Mostly for worse, that's how Rinde Eckert's cold modernization, Orpheus X, goes, the few grand moments coming mainly when the four-part band's rock music overwhelms the overly operatic poetry. This isn't just the reaction of a "narrative junkie," either. It's not that Orpheus X lacks plot, it's that it lacks feeling. Lyrics aren't any less monotonous when sung in falsetto.

Eckert's terms, such as they are, involve him occasionally playing an electric guitar, squeezing his eyes shut in rejection of his world as he attempts to dream a stranger--Eurydice--into life. The one neat parallel here is that Suzan Hanson's Eurydice is trying to forget life. Persephone, who for some reason is played by John Kelly, follows in her footsteps here, too. Eckert, like Orpheus, willingly chooses to "worship things of no importance," so Denise Marika fills David Zinn's otherwise austere stage (I-beams and a tastefully small shrine) with symbolic projections of Eurydice's themes--blood, honey, and her naked body. Objects are listed until they become facts, but while Orpheus calls it "a small museum I have come to love, the signs of something I've missed," the audience is left with only the harsh feeling of absence.

To be fair, you should know that I can hardly recall a lick of the music, nor a scrap of the dialogue. (And that's with the script in front of me.) Only the visual elements of Robert Woodruff's direction come to mind: the use of a blue, watery blanket; an infinitely long silence; a literally earth-shaking moment. (All of these things occur in the last ten minutes; you would miss little if you were to sleep until then.) Another of Eckert's terms may be Eurydice's willingness to forget--and there's a powerful moment where she is the one to make Orpheus turn, sending her back to the land of the dead--but it's not praise to call Orpheus X is as "memorable" as Lethe.

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