“Hadestown” at PPAC Puts New Spin on Greek Mythology

By Kimberly Rau

Even in Hadestown, hope springs eternal.

It’s the old familiar boy-meets-girl tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, set against a New Orleans backdrop rich in jazz and blues flavor. Our two ill-fated lovers meet and fall in love, but no matter how optimistic Orpheus is that his art will pay off, Eurydice does not have the favor of The Fates and eventually dies and is taken to the underworld, where King Hades is dealing with some romantic struggles of his own.

Desperate to get Eurydice back, Orpheus travels to the realm of the non-living, armed with nothing more than a song. But songs, like love, have the power to inspire, and Orpheus’s ballad not only upsets the capitalist, “walled-to-keep-us-safe” machine that King Hades has created, it also helps King Hades and Persephone fall back in love, righting the balance of the four seasons. The re-enamored King Hades agrees to let Eurydice follow Orpheus back to the world of the living, under the condition that Orpheus must not turn around to check if Eurydice is still following him.

Though anyone who is acquainted with the Greek myth knows all too well that the lovers are doomed from the beginning, it’s impossible to not only root for the pair, but to wonder if this time, things might turn out well for them. And that’s the point of the entire show: even when we know things aren’t going to work out, we try, over and over again, to let love triumph.

The entire cast is talented, particularly the hard-working ensemble that barely seems to have a moment off stage. And who better to narrate a Greek myth than Hermes, the messenger god? Nathan Lee Graham does so spectacularly.  Lana Gordon is a compelling, full-of-life Persephone, with the voice to back up her character’s attitude. Matthew Patrick Quinn is a perfect Hades, with an impossibly deep voice lending perfect resonance to the role. On opening night, the role of Orpheus was played by Jordan Bollwerk. Bollwerk’s high falsetto is the perfect contrast to Quinn’s deep bass, setting the characters at odds even when the two aren’t sharing the stage. The on-stage orchestra added a lot of flair to the show’s ambiance.

The set and lighting for “Hadestown” are eerily beautiful, and there are several stand-out numbers that really make the show pop, including the technically advanced “Wait for Me” and Persephone’s “Livin’ It Up on Top” in Act 1. There are moments where the show lags, and times when the writers clearly did not trust their audience at all, which leads to overstated plot points and a lack of subtlety that doesn’t do the storyline justice. But, this aside, “Hadestown” is a compelling, creative musical that captured the hearts of the audience on opening night. Overall, this treatment by singer-songwriter Anais Mitchell, directed by Rachel Chavkin, is well worth seeing.

“Hadestown” runs through Sunday, March 26, at the Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset St., Providence. Tickets may be obtained at the box office, online at ppacri.org or by calling 401.421.2787. Masks are optional.