Hades is the Drama: “Orpheus in the Overworld”

Eurydice and Orpheus. Photo by Erin Solomon.

Presented by Fresh Ink Theatre 
By Dante Gonzalez
Directed by Shira Helena Gitlin
Composer/Music Director – Abacus Dean-Polacheckan
Dramaturgy by AJ Helm
Fight and Intimacy Coordinator – Kayleigh Kane
Lighting Designer – Z Weber 
Costume Design by  Mikayla Reid 
Production Stage Management by Micaela Slotin 
Assistant Stage Manager – Katelyn Paddock
Featuring: Elijah Brown, Isabel Ginsberg, Lucy Bertolet, Kulfi Jaan, Matthew Suchecki, Rebekah Brunson

April 27 – May 11, 2024 
Boston Center for the Arts 
539 Tremont St.
Boston, MA 02116

Critique by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON, Mass. — Fresh Ink’s Orpheus in the Overworld asks what if the Greek gods’ wills were as free as humanity’s? Dante Gonzalez reimagines the “Orpheus and Euridice” myth as a queer as the day is long burlesque with music and dance. It is for the queer community yet can be enjoyed by anyone.

Hades (Kulfi Jaan, he/she/they, killing it in platform boots) runs a sexy burlesque night club where they reign supreme. In it, Greek myth repeats itself for Hades’ entertainment. Orpheus (Elijah Brown, they/he), a fan boy, and Eurydice (Isabel Ginsberg, she/her), a touring songstress, meet, fall in lust, and part in despair according to the centuries old story. 

Gods Apollo (Matthew Suchecki, they/them, rocking the sparkle makeup) and Artemis (Rebekah Brunson, she/her) watch in awe as Orpheus takes back the timeline by walking out of Hell without turning to face Eurydice. At a loss for what to do, they participate in the creation of an alternative future in Thrace, Texas. Lucy Bertolet plays a snazzy bartender, would-be queen of Hell, and best friend with the dorkiest rizz. 

Orpheus in the Overworld is a three-part story in two acts with Sarah Ruhl’s Orlando vibes. The first act is tightly written and succinctly paced. It is sexy and fun. It shows more than it tells. The cast has many opportunities to develop their characters while reveling in their stories. We understand what the stakes are and why. The show could’ve ended at intermission, and the audience would understand why. 

Act two still needs work. It tells more than it shows. The play’s stakes in the overworld of Thrace, Texas are overstated. We’re told at least three times that Orpheus must declare themself to the world or face severe consequences from the gods, but we don’t understand why Orpheus waffles for so long. They allude to past abuse and gender dysphoria, but we don’t see Orpheus triumph over their trauma. We need to see how these past troubles hurt Orpheus and how Orpheus hurts others because of his past.  Then we need to see their recovery. 

Constructive criticism aside, the cast and crew helmed by director Shira Helena Gitlin created a delightful production. The performance run has ended. If you missed it, you missed a truly satisfying queer community happening.

Cast photo by Erin Solomon

The dramaturgy by AJ Helm is resourceful and immensely supportive of the production. There were posters in the BCA black box foyer with pertinent information on Greek myth, drag artistry, and queer culture. One could read as much or as little as one wanted ahead of the performance. 

Fresh Ink provided press reps with incredibly helpful, authoritative links to correct pronoun usage, neoprouns, and journalism tips. Thank you for arming your audience with the knowledge it needs to comprehend Orpheus in the Overworld

“They” was Merriam-Webster’s word of the year in 2019. Singular “they” has been in use since the 1300s. If Merriam-Webster says the singular “they” is correct grammar, it’s correct grammar. (Anyone who argues that a new pronoun should be used instead of “they” should know that neonouns exist. Living languages serve its speakers, not the other way around. Don’t be a snob. Stop gatekeeping language.) 

I’ve just returned from a weeklong sojourn visiting my young nieces and their parents in Oregon. Because I love them, and because children make their own schedule, my seven days in Portland were spent mired in hetero parenting culture purgatory. It was wall-to-wall cookie cutter gender roles, light screaming, and sexual repression. (And, they say we’re the ones indoctrinating kids.) 

I arrived in Boston on Friday craving community fellowship. Orpheus in the Overworld was the perfect antidote to my week of LGBTQIA+ abstinence. It was the full-frontal celebration of queer representation I needed. It was loud; it was participatory; it was gay af. I landed in Massachusetts Friday morning, but it wasn’t until I saw Orpheus in the Overworld Friday evening that I felt like I was home. 

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