If you haven’t been to hell lately, you may want to drop by. It’s quite a scene: Presided over by dominatrix-chanteuse Persephone (the rampantly charismatic Daphne Gaines), this infernal nightclub features a wall of stopped clocks, gravity-free furniture, and ghostly regulars known as the Shades. Thirsty? A waitstaff of Furies offers cocktails named after the five rivers of the underworld. This is cabaret theater as damnation tongue in chic, which may strike you as delicious or just plain silly.
Persephone manages to keep her mythological crew on a tight rein—”Sisyphus! Not again!” she barks at one point—until Orpheus, here an alt-rock icon, shows up in search of his beloved Euridice, killed in a tragic accident. The musical battle for her soul begins, fought with everything from breathy love songs to darkly urgent ballads with a Balkan flavor.
Thematically, this Orpheus reimagines the malleable classical myth as a parable of the bereaved’s struggle to accept the reality of death. It’s a perspective that might resonate more sharply if the trajectory of Orpheus’s grief were articulated with more rigor. The milieu trumps the message, but that’s partly a tribute to the production’s design team and committed cast. After all, who can resist a hell that hath no Furies save those wearing feather bikinis?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 14, 2004