Review: Orpheus and Eurydice (Theatre TOnight)

OrpheusEurydice

Theatre TOnight presents a moving dance piece exploring modern love on stage in Toronto

Orpheus and Eurydice, devised and directed by Julia Krauss and Nicholas Walsh of Theatre TOnight, is an hour-long dance piece at Canadian Stage’s Rehearsal Hall that merges myth and modern love. It is entertaining and impressive, with strong ideas about the connection, emotion and potential destruction between people involved in relationships, that ultimately don’t completely coalesce into something fully cohesive. However, even considering the concept is worth your time.

We begin with a question about the ephemeral nature of relationship perfection, a question that is then swiftly and sometimes brutally tested throughout the course of the hour. The show hits many of the “relationship stage” buttons, from a hilariously awkward trio of “first date” scenarios (it’s a great piece), to the online post-date conversation, to the first time a heart is handed to another, on through the loss of perfection, antsiness, distrust, disgust and betrayal.

There are two overlaid narratives at work here, the mythological tale of Orpheus and Eurydice and a more modern story of relationships and connection. The show keeps working to bring the two together, and sometimes it gets very close, but philosophically I was never quite sold on the thematic crunch.

Sometimes the small stage, which supports 19 white-clad dancers, seems a little too crowded, but at other times the volume of people seems necessary, as in a scene where everyone does his or her own relationship victory jump, becomes a mass of hissing snakes, or turns into a full-stage cuddle puddle. When there’s a lot of activity on the stage at once (often three couples, a little like a three-ring circus), the direction effectively directs our attention so that the action feels multifaceted and busy, but not like we’re missing anything.

The movement work is a pleasure to watch (for example, look out for a scene where several women become a series of forbidding gates), but what’s really enjoyable are the individual facial expressions. There are a number of scenes where the dancers each give their own particular interpretation of a scene, but, wisely, the directors don’t insist on including everyone all the time.

Some couples remain consistent, which gives us a sense of continuity, but there’s also a lot of switching around, suggesting the mutable nature of relationships and giving the ideas a universal feeling. To this end, the diversity in the orientation of pairings was refreshing and thoughtful (as well as the notion that Orpheus and Eurydice are archetypes, rather than bound to gender). It works most of the time, particularly in the bookended scenes from beginning to end. Sometimes, though, it’s harder to pick up the threads of where things are going because it’s unclear what’s intended to be continuity and what’s not.

When we get into the more mythological section of the show, things get darker, more moving, and slightly more overwrought. The crowning physical achievement of the show is an extended sequence in which Orpheus (multiple Orpheoi?) crawl over a twisted human bridge that endlessly grows in pursuit of a distant Eurydice. The movement is constant, and the dancers fully commit to a process that is probably rather painful physically (luckily for the audience, our pain is purely emotional).

There’s a lot to like in Orpheus and Eurydice, and I think it’s worth seeing. Try to sit in the front (there’s no slope to the audience seating, and there are some moves on the floor that you don’t want to miss), avoid the one hideously squeaky chair, and bring someone you love.

Details:

  • Orpheus and Eurydice runs to March 20, 2016 at Canadian Stage’s Rehearsal Hall, 26 Berkeley Street.
  • Performances are Thursday and Friday at 9:00PM, and Saturday and Sunday at 8:00PM.
  • Tickets are $15 (arts worker, student, senior) – $20 (general) and can be purchased by calling 416-368-3110 or online.

Cast photo provided by Nicholas Walsh

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