Sarah Ruhl's play "Eurydice" really should have a "handle with care" label on the script. So fragile and delicate is this dreamy meditation on love and loss that it can easily break apart in production. I have seen it happen.
Director Amy Rummenie, though, needs no special instructions. Her production, which opened Walking Shadow Theatre's season Friday at Minneapolis' Pillsbury House Theatre, is nearly perfect in its sensitivity and sensibility.
Ruhl draws her play from the Greek myth of Orpheus, who lost his beloved Eurydice on their wedding day. A legendary musician, he entreats Hades with beautiful tunes and asks that Eurydice be sent back to the living. Hades agrees, so long as Orpheus not look back at Eurydice when follows him to the surface. He does and she is lost forever.
Ruhl, though, makes the myth about Eurydice's relationship with her father, who is already dead and watches her from the underworld. Rummenie seems to know exactly what Ruhl intended this play to be: a love story between father and daughter, and an aching rumination on loss. Eurydice arrives in the underworld without any memory of her life. Her father helps rebuild those stories -- and those of his own life -- in quiet, lovely scenes.
Even earlier, as she awaits her marriage to Orpheus, Eurydice feels the presence of her father.
"A wedding is for a father and a daughter," Eurydice says. "They stop being married to each other on that day."
Any father who has walked down the aisle with his little girl can hardly bear the poignant truth there.
Andrea San Miguel and Paris Hunter Paul are gorgeous, youthful actors as Eurydice and Orpheus. They frolic with bouncy enthusiasm. Peter Ooley's Father has the slump of age in his shoulders, but the wise and warm smile that goes with knowledge. He expresses the sad love for his daughter with a friendly and always attentive style. Dan Hopman has loads of fun as an impudent Lord of the Underworld.
As straightforward and simple as Rummenie's production is, the music and sound work of Michael Croswell create a complex and essential aural backwash. Karin Olson's lights hold a soft and meditative mood, and Steve Kath's set has some excellent surprises.
So thanks to Walking Shadow for holding this exquisite jewel to the light with exceptional care and affection. It is that rarest of things: a sad joy.
Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299