A Dual Critics Review: PBTS Opens 2017 with Eurydice





Jacksonville Beach’s Players by the Sea opened its first play of 2017 with Sarah Ruhl’s “Eurydice.” It will run through January 21 in the Grace Darling Studio Theatre at 106 6th Street North. For reservations call (904) 249-0289 or visit playersbythesea.org.

The original Greek myth dates back for centuries, and has been retold many times in story, song, and film. Orpheus, a supremely gifted musician who charms both men and beasts with his lyre, falls in love with and marries Eurydice, a beautiful wood nymph. She dies soon afterward, and he travels to the realm of the dead hoping to rescue her, but is unsuccessful.

In this interesting version, Playwright Sara Ruhl looks at the classic story from Eurydice’s perspective, rather than focusing on the failed heroic quest of Orpheus. Just after the wedding ceremony, Eurydice leaves the festivities and receives news of a letter from her deceased father. She dies trying to recover the letter and enters the Underworld where she and her father are reunited. When Orpheus makes his way to this unearthly realm, she must decide whether to remain with her father or to escape and live with her husband.

Director Matt Tomkins makes his directing debut with this show. He is well known on the local theatre scene, where he has appeared in almost twenty plays, among them “Shipwrecked,” “St. George and the Dragon,” and “The Explorers Club.” He has directed “Eurydice” with an in-depth understanding of the script as it has been one of his favorites. And he has melded an impressive cast into a flawless ensemble.

Actress Kristen Walsh in the leading role of Eurydice is superb. Ms. Walsh has appeared in a variety of roles with practically every theatre group in the area and it has been our pleasure to see her grow in performance stature.

Newcomer Jack Permenter is making his community theatre debut in the role of Orpheus. Mr. Permenter graduated from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and Florida State University, but has not been active in theatre. He does well as the young man enamored with Eurydice who proposes marriage while remaining dedicated to his music.

Veteran Joseph Stearman is excellent as the deceased but nurturing and caring father. If you go looking for Mr. Stearman, you will probably find him on stage at one of our local theatres, which includes St. Augustine’s Limelight. He has an impressive resume filled with a vast variety of roles.

Eurydice, Players by the Sea, Jacksonville Beach, Florida
Talk back with the cast of Eurydice

While this play concerns life, death, and loss, it also contains humor, with much of it provided by two characters brilliantly played by Christopher Watson, who appears as both Nasty Interesting Man and Lord of the Underworld.

Three colorful stone specters who reside in the Underworld function as a chorus and also provide many comic moments. The choral members include Lauren Hancock (Little Stone), John F.Cadwell (Big Stone), and Neal Thorburn (Loud Stone).

Stage Manager Ashley Macko certainly had her hands full with all the light cues (they were designed by Jim Wiggins and are fantastic) and sound cues (designed by Jereme Raickett and Kris Jackson). The colorful Underworld was designed by Director Tomkins; the Scenic Charge Artist was the talented Katie Dawson. Amy Tillison created the costumes. The three principals appeared in modern dress, with a suit for the father, casual dress for Orpheus, and dresses for Eurydice.

One thing we would have liked: Program notes with a brief discussion of the underlying myth and modern adaptations.

Ruhl is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and a past Tony Award nominee, and this is your chance to see one of her plays, in case you missed Player’s production of “In the Next Room (or the vibrator play),” or “Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” staged by St. Augustine’s Limelight and Gainesville’s Hippodrome.

Don’t miss this immersive one-act play that commands your attention completely for ninety intriguing other-worldly minutes.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.