Writer-director Reza Abdoh puts his unique stamp on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in "The Hip-Hop Waltz of Eurydice," premiering Thursday at Los Angeles Theatre Center.
In the original, Orpheus journeys to Hades and persuades the Lord of the Underworld to let his wife, Eurydice, go. The condition is that Orpheus mustn't look back at her as they're leaving. But he does . . . and loses her.
"What Reza's done is tell a myth about the force of faith--faith in love--in a time of repression and fear," said LATC's new dramaturg, Morgan Jenness, who came to LATC in September from New York, where she had been literary manager at the Public Theatre. "Orpheus and Eurydice have a forbidden love, and the Lord of the Underworld is a sort of fascist symbol. There are undertows of the Jesse Helms situation, the connection of love and sexuality, the fact that sex is (treated as) a bad thing."
Although the work is clearly a very personal expression for Abdoh ("Rusty Sat on a Hill," "Minimata," "Pasos en la Obscuridad"), Jenness maintains that she has fit comfortably in the process. "The text is made of music and image and movement," she said. "It's not linguistically oriented; words are only one element. Reza breaks down the intellectual expectations you have when you're just dealing with words. It's about trying to get audiences to experience the piece in a different way. You don't have to understand it to feel it."
Her own work began with helping Abdoh structure the text. "Then the conversations became about 'Where are the beats? Where are the phrases?' Reza already had a lot of things in mind when we started rehearsals; some of the words were there. But that's when the structure and images really came together. Then the conversation was, 'Is this best expressed in words, movement or video?' So my role was to help him find things, give him lists of ideas. He'd look them over and choose things, or find something that'd trigger a new idea--and take off on that."
THEATER BUZZ: At a recent Sunday evening performance of "The Joni Mitchell Project" at LATC (newly extended to Jan. 6), one couldn't help but notice that cast member Ren Woods was quietly crying (and we mean buckets) during the show's finale. "When I sing 'The Circle Game,' I think about my little boy growing up--and when he'll lose his naivete, his childhood," explained the actress-singer. "It's also a feeling toward humankind. Some nights it just affects me more than others."
THEATER BITS: Canned and/or packaged food is the price of admission to "Tis the Season . . . ," a Christmas show (Friday-next Sunday) at Theatre West. Included in the program: Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales," plus Betty Garrett's return to "Christmas on Park Avenue," a number she performed in a 1946 Broadway revue, "Call Me Mister." Information: (213) 851-7977.