By Tennessee Williams

Orpheus Descending
Pacific Resident Theatre

ORPHEUS DESCENDING Tennessee Williams’ Southern-gothic tragedy, which features an unlikely romance between a 30-year-old dreamy musician and a middle-aged Italian shopkeeper, has a reputation as one of his most difficult plays to stage due to an overabundance of lengthy speeches laden with heavy-handed symbolism. Elina de Santos’ evocative production certainly has moments of luminous transcendence, thanks to Marilyn Fox’s powerhouse performance as the alienated foreigner, Lady Torrance. Fox believably changes from the dowdy, love-starved wife of dying old tyrant Jabe Torrance – owner of a small Mississippi town’s mercantile, where the play’s three acts unfold – to a passionate lover reawakened by her young poet-guitarist, Val Xavier (Greg Vignolle) the spirited drifter who lands at the Torrances’ store looking for work, then rouses the lust of several womenfolk, including the evangelical wife (Sharron Shayne) of jealous redneck Sheriff Talbott (Dan Verdin) and aging town hussy Carol Cutrere (Alley Mills). Brad Greenquist exudes ample menace as powder keg Jabe, Diane Hurley makes a convincingly evil Nurse Porter, and Clarinda Ross and Lisa Denke enliven their scenes as a couple of mischievous gossipy hens.

Pacific Resident Theater, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; mat Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 7. (310) 822-8392. (Miriam Jacobson)

Pacific Resident Theater