The Bay Area theater scene is smitten with Sarah Ruhl. The upcoming seasons at Marin Theatre Company, San Francisco Playhouse and the playwright's usual haunt, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, all boast new works by Ruhl in their local or West Coast premieres.
The Bay Area’s love affair with Ruhl’s work began in 2004 with Berkeley Rep’s luminous production of Eurydice directed by her frequent collaborator Les Waters. A half-dozen smaller companies around the Bay have performed the play since then. But that first breathtaking introduction to Ruhl’s fanciful, bittersweet vision, packed with humor, tenderness and magical realism, remains impossible to forget.
A more sinister new production at Shotgun Players proves somehow to be equally indelible. Part of a season entirely made up of works by women, the Shotgun version is directed by Erika Chong Shuch, a choreographer who’s worked a lot with theater companies. Shuch's staging is bold, aggressively physical and packed with stunning imagery.
Eurydice is a love story, but not the kind you might expect. The titular character is best known from Greek myth as the wife of the great poet-hero Orpheus who becomes the object of his quest when Eurydice dies and he goes down to the Underworld to retrieve her. Orpheus is told to head back home and his spouse will follow right behind him. But if he turns back to look at her, Eurydice will be lost forever.
The love between Megan Trout’s lively Eurydice and Kenny Toll’s dreamily preoccupied Orpheus is palpable. They talk philosophically of books and music while doing a playful, passionate dance involving wrestling, biting, choking and kissing. But this is not Orpheus’s story, and he fades into the background as soon as Eurydice descends into the Underworld.