Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More on Eurydice, anon!

On his "Theatre Mirror" website, long-time Boston theatre observer Larry Stark seems to be taking me (disguised as "Serious Critic") to task for my exasperated pan of Eurydice. I don't mind being argued with (in fact I like it) - I only wish that if the "Serious Critic" is me, that Larry would say so (although since he calls himself "Anon.," I suppose I shouldn't complain).

As usual, Larry loved Eurydice (he even signed his review with "love," as he always does). The problem with this assessment, however, is that looking over his output, it's apparent that Larry has loved just about everything he's ever seen; the question, therefore, is not which shows he loved, but which shows he loved more.

But anyway, back to Eurydice. Larry tries to float the idea that people who don't like Eurydice (i.e., the majority of the audience I saw it with) don't "understand" it - tellingly, he doesn't understand it either, but he still loves it - indeed, his lack of comprehension seems to make him love it all the more. (You wonder - if he had understood it, would he have liked it less?)

Ironically, however, Larry hints at a possible interpretation of Eurydice that had tugged at my consciousness a bit, too: does Ruhl intend the play as a meditation on daddy-love, and how it can kill actual romantic love? After all, it's Dad who precipitates Eurydice's death in this version (he's completely absent from every other version, and the myth, too), and he does twice mime the action of walking her down the aisle (which Larry perceptively describes as the "death" of their relationship). Plus he dances (he's got rhythm, like Orpheus, while Eurydice doesn't).

But while I'm sympathetic to this as metaphor, I can't pretend it works onstage, as Ruhl doesn't bother to actually develop it as a dramatic conflict (and it never quite coheres into a resonant stage-picture, either). Indeed, I'd have to say that Eurydice would be hugely more interesting if Ruhl had followed up on making dear old Dad more complex, and had treated Eurydice's Electra complex more suggestively. But she doesn't; what Larry is doing is perceptively analyzing the playwright, not her play. And isn't the playwright's job to actually limn his or her own inner life? Still, this could suggest its appeal to some viewers, who may recognize in its author, rather than its text, something like their own unspoken conflicts.

But then there's this whole "I didn't understand it, and I liked it" idea. Needless to say, criticism requires understanding at some level; or at any rate, it requires a response other than simple enthusiasm to the inevitable riposte, "But I didn't understand it, and I didn't like it." And do I dare to point out that I think I did understand Eurydice? I just didn't like it.


  1. Wrong, Tom.

    Larry didn't 'love' me in 'Equus.' And's what's more ....

    Larry was right.

  2. Okay, there is now officially a show that Larry Stark did not like! It was eight years ago, but never mind!

  3. Jeez, Dude, do I have to send you *all* my bad reviews? Your website would have a meltdown over the weight.

    Huh... what? What do you mean, "Other people read this, too."?