Alyssa Ashley Otoski-Keim stars as “Eurydice,” seen here shortly after her arrival in the land of the dead, with her late father (Robert Searle) as two stones (Emilie Pitts and Christa Wirth) look on. The adventurous play by Sarah Ruhl runs through Feb. 18, at CNY Playhouse in ShoppingTown DeWitt. (Amelia Beamish Photo)
By Russ Tarby
If you go into it cold, “Eurydice” will surely confound and confuse you. On the other hand, if you consider the playwright rewro
te an old Greek legend as a tribute to her late father, well, you might better appreciate the play’s peculiarities.
Illinois-born playwright Sarah Ruhl penned “Eurydice” in honor of her father, Patrick. The plot — thin as it is — is based upon the myth of Orpheus, a master musician who tried to bring his bride back from the dead with his enchanting compositions. Ruhl said she wrote “Eurydice” as “a way to have a few more conversations” with her dad who had been an enthusiastic wordsmith.
CNY Playhouse is now bravely staging “Eurydice” at its ShoppingTown theater, and while Ruhl’s script often loses itself in post-modern meanderings, three talented lead players here save the day.
In the title role, Alyssa Ashley Otoski-Keim makes an audacious CNY Playhouse debut as the ill-fated bride who spends most of the play clumsily adjusting to the afterlife. The cherubic, henna-haired Otoski-Keim — a recent graduate of SUNY Oswego — exudes a sunny innocence punctuated by a quick and friendly smile, expressive hands and twinkling eyes. The actress has a natural feel for dialogue, too, and a good handle on humor.
Her grieving husband, Orpheus, is well-played by the handsome Derek Powell, a young actor with all the tools to carve out a long career as a leading man. Powell is tall, dark-haired with a strong nose, a sincere smile and piercing dark eyes. Opening scenes depict puppy loveplay on the beach and the revelation that Eurydice is literal while Orpheus is ethereal.
Later scenes find Eurydice lost in the world of the dead while Orpheus, still living, grieves bitterly above. Eurydice is so dumbfounded by her mortality that she’s initially unable to recognize her late father, performed with compassion and candor by the rock-steady actor, Robert G. Searle.
Because Searle is so well-focused, so real even as a dead man, the father, reunited with his daughter, remains entirely believable as he creates a ‘room” for Eurydice made of colored string and tries desperately to re-teach her a lost vocabulary.
That string room, string rings, rain, rivers and stones all play important parts in this somewhat scattered script. In the post-life underworld, stones portrayed by Kathy Egloff, Chris Wirth and Emilie Pitts act as a Greek chorus, commenting on the action, often scolding the characters, without actually intervening in events. “Learn how to act like a stone,” they advise between marathons of cat’s cradling. Kinda spooky!
A red-bearded Jeremiah Thompson serves as comic relief portraying a “nasty, interesting man,” who turns out to be a lascivious Lord of the Underground. His Act 2 entrance on a silver scooter makes for a memorable moment.
Like the playwright, first-time director Lizz Allers dedicated this production of her favorite play to her father and grandfather, two men who inspired her interest in theater. Allers rose to the occasion as this difficult, very different play weaves together what she called “the vibrant tapestry that’s created when we’re able to bond with others.”
“Eurydice” runs at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Feb. 16, 17 and 18. The run continues at 8 p.m. Feb. 16, 17 and 18, at CNY Playhouse, located near the Macy’s entrance at on the second level of ShoppingTown Mall. Tickets cost $15 on Thursday and $17 on Friday and Saturday; cnyplayhouse.org; 885-8960.
I am a reporter for the Eagle Bulletin and Cazenovia Republican at Eagle News. I report on topics ranging from town and village government, business, news and features. I am a 2014 graduate of the Roy H. Park School of Communications and have a degree in Journalism and a minor in Psychology.