Review: English Theatre of Rome brings Eurydice out of the underworld

The Three Stones

ROME - The adaptation of Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl and directed by Carl Granieri for The English Theatre of Rome has re-centred the classic myth of Orpheus and Eurydice to focus on Eurydice’s experience after her death whilst capturing the uniqueness and spirit of Ruhl’s script in a moving production adorned with an excellent cast.

Granieri, 43, a native of New Jersey whose family originally is from Rome, is an actor, director, and theatre educator based in Lafayette, Louisiana, where he works as an Associate Professor of Theatre at the University of Louisiana. In a previous interview with the Insider (  he spoke about how he had been “dying to produce Eurydice for a decade,” and took advantage of the open directing slot for the spring season at the English Theatre of Rome to put on the play during his year-long sabbatical.

In the role of Eurydice, Lidia Fili Aicardi skilfully portrays the evolution of her character. The audience witnesses Eurydice grow into a confident woman who exercises her right to make her own choices. Orpheus is played by Duné Medros. The actress took over the role at the last moment after the withdrawal of the previously selected actor. Her performance as Orpheus captures both the arrogant and the obsessive, loving sides to the character. 

The play, which was staged at the Teatro Arciliuto in Rome, reimagines the famous love story between Orpheus and Eurydice not through Orpheus's infamous pilgrimage to retrieve his bridge, but through the eyes of its heroine. Dying too young on her wedding day, Eurydice must journey to the underworld, where she reunites with her father and struggles to remember her lost love. The most noticeable of Ruhl’s changes is that in the traditional myth Orpheus succumbs to his desires and looks back at Eurydice, while in Ruhl's version Eurydice calls out to Orpheus (causing him to look back) perhaps as a result of her desire to remain in the land of the dead with her father.

This adaptation makes the audience question the dynamic between Eurydice and Orpheus. Although it is clear that Orpheus and Eurydice love each other, the play’s ending powerfully highlights Eurydice’s decision to choose her own happiness. In this production Granieri powerfully captures the ambiguity of the script and their dynamic – forcing the audience to consider where the line is between Eurydice’s love for Orpheus and her desire to choose her own happiness. His production does not provide clear cut answers and instead leaves the audience to dwell in this ambiguity. 

The intimate venue of the Teatro Arciliuto perfectly captures the increasing intensity of the play as Eurydice battles with forgetfulness in the underworld and powerfully reconnects with her father. The underground setting of the venue also provides a masterful backdrop for the underworld which stars James Blundell as Hades. Blundell provides crucial and comical entertainment to the play; he charms the audience and captures a sort of “rock enthusiast” gone wrong persona. He, alongside the Three Stones, embraces physical comedy and at one point comes on stage in stilts to show that he is “grown” and is ready to take Eurydice as his bride. 

The Three Stones take on the function of the Greek Chorus and work effectively together: Dayane Mounsib is Loud Stone, Nicoletta Brunelli is Big Stone and Alessandra Gage is Little Stone. As a trio they provide both narration and humour. 

Through Orpheus, the audience distinguishes the central role of music in the play. Indeed, the first word spoken by Orpheus on stage is “music.” The sound itself, composed by Matt Kirk, evokes the mythical setting of the play and Granieri takes advantage of the various entrances and exits to the stage to conjure a vast underworld and land above.

Paul Guerin portrays a father-figure who will have deeply resonated for many audience members - depicting a convincing and moving paternal figure whose enduring love stands in contrast with Orpheus’ obsessive love. The sets by Meredith Granieri and the costumes by Kendra Weeks adorn the small stage with rich colours and brighten the underground venue.

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Lidia Fili Aicardi as Eurydice