photo by Tim Fuller
Her Father (Bill Epstein) and Eurydice (Kathleen Cannon) share a literary moment at the Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre. 

"Eurydice” at the Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre is ART spelled with capital letters. What the play means isn't nearly as important as how it feels. And when Sarah Ruhl is the playwright, you can be sure it is going to mean a lot.

But Claire Marie Mannle as director packs a complete set of theater tools equal to the task of presenting this re-imagining of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, so satisfing  you come away having a full experience.

This production glows, literally, with the seamless collaboration of set designer Jason Jamerson, lighting designer Josh Hemmo, sound design supervisor Matt Marcus and musical director Vicki Brown. Theirs is a wonderfully complete effort, to be sure.

Rather than searching for universal truths, Mannle brings us delicately to the longing of daughters seeking a more complete connection with their fathers. Never directly spoken, this underlying desire can quickly expand in the audience to include every adult child's wish to be eqully understood by its parents.

Then there is only a short step to becoming those parents longing to embrace their own children across the years.

All of this is brushed with a gentle humor amid stage settings that create a mood more than a sense of place. But even when the indoor and outdoor landscapes are mostly implied – the characters often metaphorical – we are caught up in the grappling of Kathleen Cannon as Eurydice and Bill Epstein as Her Father.

Epstein has never been better. Cannon is a relatively new face here. The chemistry between these two will give your own heart a good squeeze.

This Orpheus (Adam Denoyer), mythology's most popular musician, has the look of a rock star on his day off -- strolling around in shorts and  stripped of all his concert trappings, but still feeling that spectral connection to the Gods.

Stepping in to add the complications is Ryuto Adams as the deucedly sinister figure identified in the program as A Nasty Interesting Man. You can also think of him as the Guy Who Runs the Underworld.

Adding a classical dimension as the observant Greek Chorus are the ever-commenting Loud Stone (Julia Balestracci), Little Stone (Leah Taylor) and Big Stone (Gretchen Wirges).

All the actors wear everyday clothing, making the production seem to be set in current times without being specific.

Briefly, the story begins with Eurydice and Orpheus deeply in love. On their wedding day, Eurydice tragically dies and Orpheus in a rock star moment vows to retrive her from the Underworld.

Eurydice in the Underworld, unaware of Orpheus' promise, goes through her own awakening. Then come several touching scenes with her father, who has been down here for years, but still able to watch her.

The play is performed in 90 minutes without an intermission. That mythic moment when Orpheus does go into the Underworld to bring back his wife occurs at the approximate half-way point.

"Eurydice" runs through Oct. 28 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, in the Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre, 738 N. Fifth Ave. in the Historic Y.

Tickets are $28 general admission, $20 for ages 30 and under, $15 for students and teachers. Further details and reservations, 448-3300, or visit scoundrelandscamp.org

photo by Ryan Fagan
From left: Jonathan Heras, Rhonda Hallquist, Missie Scheffman, Christopher Moseley, Emily Gates, Roxanne Harley, and Tyler West. Laying down: Michael Woodson

For some reason, all the online reviews of “Death By Design” describe it as a “mash-up” of Noel Coward and Agatha Christie. Maybe they mean Coward's upscale wardrobe and manners combined with Agatha Christie's gaslight clever detectives.

Death By Design” is all that, but what's best for me is how the jokes feel as new as Netflix. Better yet, think of “Death By Design” as old-fangled theater kicked up with new-fangled punch lines. Or how it's like watching a fresh episode of an old favorite TV show.

Roberto Guajardo as director keeps all that clever dialogue zipping along. Rob Urbinati the playwright has tossed so many red herring into the plot you could cook up a pot of crime chowder in no time.

It's this pace that makes everything fun. No sooner is one distraction replaced by another, one eccentric character eclipsed by a bigger one, then all the fingers on stage are pointed in the opposite direction to identify the newest guilty transgressor.

So let yourself slip back nearly 100 years (this is the Noel Coward part) to oh-so-proper England in 1932 at the elegant country estate of successful playwright Edward Bennett (Christopher Moseley) and his gracefully dramatic wife Sorel (Missie Scheffman).

Looking after these two and getting all the best laughs are the unflappable maid Bridgit (Rhonda Hallquist) and quippy Jack the chauffeur (Jonathan Heras).

Stuffed shirt Walter the conservative politician (Michael Woodson) is the one nobody likes. He spends nearly half the play onstage as a dead person.

Stopping by to keep everyone guessing are Victoria (Roxanne Harley) the bohemian artist who loves to dance with her own paintings; Eric (Tyler West) the energetic socialist who never slows down; and mysterious Alice (Emily Gates) who doesn't wear her glasses but can't see a thing without them.

We spend most of the first act getting to know all these personalities. Hallquist has a grand time spouting snappy observations and applying her sleuthing skills as an amateur detective. Curiously, she can also list the number of deadly poisons that one may grow in one's own garden.

Scheffman is wonderfully over the top and has her upscale moves down pat. We are convinced this Sorel would feel right at home riding in the most grand Duesenberg on wheels.

Getting right to the point of “Death By Design,” the death in question takes place in bright stagelight. Right after intermission we clearly see Alice fire a handgun point blank at Walter on the couch.

He looks dead enough, then we remember Alice's terrible eyesight. Bullet holes are found in the wall behind Walter' couch. One of the bullets is still warm. But Walter is definitely dead.

So...umm...who dun it? Act Two is just getting started.

"Death By Design" runs through Nov. 17, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays (also 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17), at Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd. Tickets are $15 Thursdays,  $20 all others, with discounts available.

For further details and reservations, 327-4242, or visit livetheatreworkshop.org