Sunday, January 19, 2014

"Orpheus and Eurydice" by Jeremy Dobrish: Mythology for Hipsters

I've spent a significant portion of my life over the last four years involved with a theater festival that commissions new plays based on Greek mythology, and I translated Jean Cocteau's Orphée and produced it at Theater Pub last April. So it's no surprise that my friend Stuart (founder of both the Olympians Festival and Theater Pub) dug up a copy of an obscure Orpheus and Eurydice adaptation that played off-Broadway circa the turn of the millennium, and gave it to me with an "I think you should read this."

Orpheus And Eurydice
by Jeremy Dobrish
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jeremy Dobrish's Orpheus and Eurydice is a modern, hipster adaptation, in which Orpheus is the frontman of In Your Thrace, a popular rock band. (Jason and Hercules are the other band members.) This version is fast-paced, theatrically savvy, and laden with in-jokes and unusual choices. Despite being one of the title characters, Eurydice is a silent role (the other characters are fond of reminding us that "traditional mythology has very little to say about her"). Orpheus narrates the first part of his trip to the Underworld in a long monologue, but we never hear him sing or play any of his music. Instead, toward the end of Act Two, Death and her two assistants perform an elaborate song-and-dance routine called "What Is Love?"

The depiction of Death and her assistants, by the way, is pretty clearly ripped off from Jean Cocteau's play Orphée. I can't decide whether this is a fun homage or an act of plagiarism, just as I can't decide how I feel about many of the other aforementioned choices (Eurydice's silence; Orpheus' Underworld monologue; Death's song-and-dance).

Still, I'd be interested in seeing this script performed (preferably in a black-box theater by my local hipster company) in order to see how it works onstage, and to make up my mind. Overall, I'd say that it reads like the work of an overeducated twentysomething theater-and-mythology nerd, but hey, I'm one of those myself.

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