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Byline: Evan Henerson Theater Critic

Sarah Ruhl, modern mistress of myths, has returned to the lower depths. And the theater world is the better for it.

The playwright, whose previous fresh L.A. venture was an intriguing examination of the Demeter/Persephone story (Cornerstone Theatre Company's ``Demeter in the City''), has turned her curious lens on the legend of Orpheus and his love, Eurydice. And director John Langs and the Circle X Theatre Company know exactly what to make of it.

``Eurydice,'' which kicks off the Ensemble Theatre Collective series at the Ford Amphitheatre's inside space, is a whimsical and delicate look at identity and the nature of loss. Orpheus may have been the one who looked backward when he was instructed not to, but it's the title character and her father (played by Kelly Brady and John Getz, respectively), who -- Ruhl suggests -- may have undergone the greatest sacrifices most bitterly.

Somewhere along a seashore, a musician named Orpheus (Tim Wright) and his lady Eurydice (Brady) declare themselves love-struck and set a wedding date. Somehow the news reaches the Underworld, where Eurydice's long-lost father gets wind of it and sends a letter of congratulations and regret.

He's been missing his daughter for quite some time, but a character known as ``A Nasty Interesting Man'' (Jeff Ricketts) finds the letter and uses it to draw Eurydice away from her wedding.

What Eurydice learns when she goes below is that death's greatest blessing -- as well as its curse -- is the ability to forget. A chorus of spirits who call themselves The Stones (Thia Stephan, Joe Tyler Gold and Doug Sutherland) know how this obliteration business is supposed to work, and they can't entirely understand why Eurydice and her father would want to deviate.

But deviate they do, which complicates Orpheus' plan to bring Eurydice back from the underworld. Which, after all, does a girl require more: her father or her husband?

Director Langs makes marvelously inventive use of the Ford's indoor space, envisioning the underworld as a spare locale with a working water pump, a menacing-looking double-leveled staircase and an elevator (Brian Sidney Bembridge designed ``Eurydice's'' sets and lighting. Particularly effective is the deployment of -- of all things -- string. Indeed, one of the production's most tender moments has Getz's father character quietly shaping a makeshift room for his newly arrived daughter out of pocket string.

There's a goofy delicacy to Ruhl's characters and the way they speak. I was reminded of the works of Charles Mee (particularly in Ricketts' petulant, tricycle-riding rendition of the Lord of the Underworld), but Ruhl's treatment of love -- while equally impassioned -- is subtler.

And more believable. Wright's dogged Orpheus (who loves his music and his wife equally) and Brady's devoted but curious Eurydice are, finally, a couple of kids who may have plunged into this marriage business a little too quickly. But when a choked-up Brady writes a letter to ``my husband's new wife'' before saying goodbye, the scene can't help but resonate.

Credit Circle X, and credit the talented Ruhl. Like Orpheus and his music, the playwright is one to follow.

Evan Henerson, (818) 713-3651

EURYDICE - Three and one half stars

Where: Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., Hollywood.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday; through Jan. 6.

Tickets: $20. (323) 804-5491.

In a nutshell: Classical myths made current with playwright Sarah Ruhl taking the lead.




Eurydice (Kelly Brady) and Orpheus (Tim Wright) want to get married, but her deceased father still manages to stand in the way in ``Eurydice,'' at the Ford Amphitheatre.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 8, 2006

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