On Oct. 21, Kenyon College Players opened the doors of the Black Box Theater to present Eurydice; a modern retelling of the tragic Greek myth of Orpheus. Over three performances, the cast and crew of Eurydice managed to make a centuries-old tale feel fresh and engaging.
Playwright Sarah Ruhl rewrote the classic myth in 2003 to focus on Eurydice’s (Kate Goldberg ’24) experience. The story follows her untimely death after marrying her lover Orpheus (Max Kahn ’25) and her subsequent journey to the underworld, where she is reunited with her deceased father (Gideon Malherbe ’24). As she attempts to comprehend her new life (or lack thereof) Eurydice and her father are tormented by a chorus of stones (Sadie Wayne ’26, Charlie Sacha ’26 and Grace Donnelly ’25).
In lieu of an actor for “lord of the underworld” the stones commanded a puppet created by Sally Vogel ’23. Vogel used wire, papier-mâché and craft paper to make this terrifying creature. The loud and little stones (Sacha and Wayne, respectively) each controlled one of his hands while the big stone (Donnelly) acted as the sneering face. The choice to use a puppet rather than an actor communicated the powerful and inhuman nature of the character.
Eurydice and her father avoid the fate of the River Lethe by sharing memories, reading Shakespeare and exchanging letters with Eurydice’s living husband, Orpheus. A major change to the original myth comes when Orpheus ventures into the underworld to save his beloved Eurydice. Eurydice is the one who calls to Orpheus, beckoning him to turn back and condemn her to a second death. Viewers observe Eurydice as an autonomous character who chooses to remain with her father rather than serve as an object that Orpheus attempts to reclaim. Although this choice sentences Eurydice, her father and Orpheus to an afterlife without the ability to remember or communicate with one another, it was a poetic conclusion that brought new elements to an old story.
Even though the plot had a satisfying progression, I felt the script failed to fully develop its characters. With little more than a name as background for each character, it was difficult to connect to them or understand their ambitions. It seemed their motivation came from a desire to follow the format of the original myth rather than any intrinsic desire. However, the production compensated with creative costume design from Celia Goldstein ’26 and powerful performances, particularly from Donnelly and Malherbe. Donnelly’s haunting voice as both the big stone and the head of the puppet oozed throughout the theater, sending chills down my spine every time she stepped through the curtains. Meanwhile, Malherbe’s delivery and disposition captured the affection of a middle-aged father, most exemplified when this character practices his speech for his daughter’s wedding. Malherbe employed a wise-yet-anxious energy that instantly let the audience understand and trust his character.
I was also impressed by the set design from Max Fishman ’26. The Black Box Theater can pose challenges for productions, as the space is cramped, but the crew managed to create a stage that easily morphed between a vibrant earth and a dreary underworld. These transitions occurred seamlessly with the whimsical lighting design of Chloe Cameron ’23. The production crew brought this play to life for modern audiences, filling in the gaps that Ruhl left in her occasionally vague script.
Eurydice was by no means a joyful story, meaning the production could not rely on punchlines or stunts for entertainment. I have nothing but applause for director Katie Genzer ’25 and stage manager Chiara Rothenberg ’25 for taking on this challenge. They took an old tragedy and made it new and exciting to watch. Eurydice was a quintessentially Kenyon way to spend a Friday night on campus, and I look forward to seeing future performances and productions from all cast and crew involved.