By Anh Do

Last weekend, our theater club Chrysostomos on the Santa Fe campus put up two performances of the play Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl. The play was directed by one of my classmates AJ Sparks (SF’19), and performed by students Kalysta Fern (SF’19), Aayush Thapa (’22), David Adah-Ogoh (’22), Ashish Dhakal (SF’19), Hyukhee Kwon (’20), Adriana Noe (’21) and Leah Davidson (’21). At the end of each year, Chrysostomos sends out play proposal forms to the community, so that they can have a say in what will be performed. Eurydice was submitted by Alexandra Catharsis, who is a part of the Great Works by Women Writers Study Group, where they studied this play. Chrysostomos officers realized that, despite the existence of such study groups, Chrysostomos had not performed something by a woman playwright,  and they had also never performed something so modern (the play was written in 2003). Because of this, they decided to stage Eurydice this fall.

Told from Eurydice’s perspective as she decides whether to return to Orpheus on Earth or remain in the Underworld with her father, the play is a modern twist on the original Greek myth. Throughout the play, the audience often sees Eurydice’s relationship with Orpheus juxtaposed with that of Eurydice with her father. In order to understand the play better, I decided to chat with AJ and some of the actors in the play. When asked what they think the play is about, AJ and Kalysta (who plays Eurydice) gave me quite interesting answers. AJ told me: “I think the play is about choices and love. Eurydice chooses to go to the Nasty Interesting Man’s apartment and I think she chooses to say Orpheus’ name so she has to stay in the Underworld. And I think she makes that choice for a number of reasons. The reason that seems most likely to me is that she knows the love she has for her father and she knows its warmth and comfort. Her love for Orpheus, on the other hand, is new and exciting, but there’s an element of fear and unknown in that love, so I think when she chooses to say Orpheus’ name, she’s choosing the well-worn love she shares with her father.” Along the same lines, Kalysta observed that Eurydice’s relationship with her father seems to be more genuine than her love with Orpheus in the play: “Eurydice and her father experience themselves through each other, I think. But there’s also a lot of honest love. The thing is, both Orpheus and Eurydice are creative people, but in very different directions. Eurydice respects Orpheus’s creativity, and he appreciates that hers exists without really respecting it. Eurydice loved in a much more complicated way than Orpheus. That’s dangerous.”

There are many moments in the play that induce laughter from the audience, for example, the way in which some characters in the Underworld are portrayed. Hades, in the original Greek myth, is married to Persephone. But in the play Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl, Hades, now called Nasty Interesting Man/Lord of the Underworld (played by Ashish), is a child who seduces Eurydice. In fact, Kalysta told me that her favorite moment in the play was her scene with Ashish: “When he comes in to the sound of heavy metal music, and he’s on his tricycle with the propeller beanie! I always laugh!” Along with Hades, there are three talking stones who are nothing short of bossy and persistent in reminding residents of the Underworld to abide by its rules. Curious about these changes in the way that characters in the Underworld are portrayed, I talked to Ashish, the Lord of the Underworld himself. He commented: “Hades was portrayed differently in the world and in the underworld. This I found to be the most interesting aspect of my character. And the child in the underworld fits in perfectly with the childishness that is overall in the underworld, like how the stones are like small children, and how Eurydice also behaves less like an adult down there. It was, I believe, a strange point about death, how it can also be a beginning again, from infancy.” Hyukhee, who plays the Little Stone in the play, said: “The stones makes conflict with tragedy because they laugh at the characters’ sorrow and belittle their pain. I think the stones relieve the tragedy by doing this because they provide levity to the play. I believe this has an effect of making the audience empathize more with the sorrow of Eurydice and her father.”

The play leaves much room for interpretation as to the question of the significance of telling the story from the female perspective, how familial love might be related to romantic love, what it means for one to retrieve childishness in the Underworld and what constitutes genuine human connection. AJ admitted not having many interpretations in mind while directing the play, leaving room for ambiguity. Personally, I think the play was a real treat for the college community, because putting up performances of any kind, whether it be theater, music or dance, with our busy schedule at St. John’s requires much dedication and passion. The performances themselves were the beautiful culmination of good team-work, discipline, flexibility and creativity. Not having a lot of time to rehearse, the students worked hard to make sure that the final product came into fruition. All those that I talked to said they had a lot of fun rehearsing and performing. Hyukhee said it was her first time acting, and she had a blast with the team. Kalysta enjoyed getting to know her friends: “It’s so beautiful to see how hard everyone is working to make this incredibly difficult, complex thing come to life. Performance nights are my favorite part. When everything finally comes together, it feels like a miracle.”

The student writing staff of the johnnie chair blog

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