Orpheus X

Drag me to Hell.

  • BLIND DEVOTION Eckert goes to Hell and back; Photographs: T. Charles Erickson

BLIND DEVOTION Eckert goes to Hell and back; Photographs: T. Charles Erickson

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Rinde Eckert: rock star? Those who have followed the bullet-headed performer over the past decade know that he’s capable of much. Eckert composes in a rapturous folk-opera vein, sings with a mighty bass-baritone, and writes and acts in performance pieces that dissect faith, death and identity. Still, it’s a bit hard to see this pensive, professorial type as a hard-living thrasher of guitars (maybe a more introverted Glenn Branca). But that’s all right, since Orpheus X is not trying to replicate real-world rock; it appropriates the genre as a metaphor for the tragic split between nature and art.

In this poetic, multimedia update of the ancient myth, moodily directed by Robert Woodruff, Orpheus (Eckert) is a famous pop singer and Eurydice (Hanson) an obscure poet. Rather than lovers, as they are traditionally portrayed, the two are strangers whose lives intersect when a taxi taking Orpheus to a concert hits Eurydice as she steps from the curb. Thereafter, she descends into Hell, where she loses language and scrawls nonsense symbols on clear plastic walls, while he broods aboveground, noodling on his guitar and obsessing about a woman he barely knew. Shuttling between them is the ethereal John Kelly, alternately playing the rocker’s exasperated agent and also Hades’ queen, Persephone, who is fascinated with her newest lodger.

By changing the vital link between the two principals from love to guilt, Eckert injects moral urgency into Orpheus’s search for his beloved, and his eleventh-hour song to liberate Eurydice is a stunner. Violent, erotic videos splash across David Zinn’s rusted-metal set, Eckert’s voice booms above the onstage band, bellowing a dirge that blends pastoral imagery, young lust and the carnage of war. Even Eurydice would agree that such climactic moments are to die for.—David Cote

See more Theater reviews

Duke on 42nd Street. By Rinde Eckert. Dir. Robert Woodruff. With Eckert, Suzan Hanson, John Kelly. 1hr 30mins. No intermission.