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A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
Orpheus X is not your typical play. In fact, typical is not an adjective one is ever likely to apply to any work by the multi-faceted Eckert. It has the feel of an opera, yet the small cast and orchestra (three actor-singers, including Eckert, and four musicians), the eclectic rhythms (part classical new music, part rock) and the use of face mikes don't exactly make for grand opera.
Like the last Eckert piece reviewed at Curtainup, And God Created Whales, (review), Orpheus X is a highly imaginative and experimental take on a much told tale. The Orpheus with the X is now an aging, guitar strumming rock musician who's locked himself into his recording studio. He's unable to work as he's fixated on the memory of Eurydice (Suzan Hanson), a poet who was run over by a taxi he was riding in and died in his arms. Despite his manager Jon's (John Kelly) pleas, Orpheus stops composing and singing.
In the meantime we see Eurydice in Hades where she is must let go of the symbols of her life (the pens, she wrote with and even the memories of the poems she wrote). She uses the chalk given her to replace her pens and symbolically referred to as "organized dust," to keep scribbling and filling up the walls with a jumble of what looks like Greek letters. Just as she is learning to let go of life, Orpheus pursues her to the underworld hoping to take her back to earth. True to the legend he is told this will be possible only if he remains blindfolded and doesn't look at Eurydice. In a twist on the better known outcome of this, Euridyce rips off the blindfold and opts for the after life where her art will presumably be preserved.
While Eckert is the nominal lead as the title character and indeed impresses with his acting and fine tenor voice, his two colleagues are equally stellar: Suzan Hanson brings a gorgeous voice and great beauty and feeling to Eurydice, the object of Orpheus's obsession; John Kelly handles his dual roles as Orpheus X's agent Jon and the eerie Persephone who prepares Eurydice for her place in Hades.
Ultimately, what makes this such a unique theatrical experience has less to do with the updated plot and the lyrical spoken and sung dialogue (some of the poetry is rather so-so) than the breathtaking, otherworldly beauty of Woodruff's production which gains much from Denise Marina's stunning video images and Christopher Akerlind's lighting. Words can't really do justice to the extraordinary imagery and atmosphere of this mesmerizing production. I therefore urge you who are adventurous enough to stray from the well-beaten theatrical path to see it for yourself