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John Kelly animates love and loss in ‘Find My Way Home’

In 1988, as many of the best and brightest in New York’s performancecommunity were struggling with AIDS, unclassifiable theater artist JohnKelly unveiled his version of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.

In 1988, as many of the best and brightest in New York’s performance community were struggling with AIDS, unclassifiable theater artist John Kelly unveiled his version of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.

“Find My Way Home” is set in the Great Depression, with Orpheus (Kelly) as a singer invited to entertain some hard-edged plutocrats and Eurydice (Kyle de Camp) as a maid who survives her grim situation by listening to the singer’s voice emanating from the radio. She winds up, Cinderella-like, in his arms.

With his ineffable skill, Kelly assembles a pastiche score ranging from Gershwin and Porter to the great operatic strains of Gluck and Verdi. Though much of the music is performed (by Kelly himself, on recordings and by a live ensemble of singers, a cellist and a pianist) in languages other than English, we somehow always know what’s going on.

No sooner have the lovers found each other than Eurydice dies in an accident; Orpheus blindly pursues her, winding up first in the purgatory of a marathon dance contest and then in the Underworld, which looks mightily like a Paris cabaret. The moment he locates her the inevitable happens: He looks her in the eye and loses her forever.

Between the original production and the present revival, the stage has quadrupled in size and the theater capacity doubled. We’re no longer on top of the action — and the new distance, oddly, seems to slow it down. But Kelly’s vision still packs an emotional punch, the cast is pitch-perfect and the issues explored — class distinctions, conspicuous consumption and premature death —could not be more timely.

 
 
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