Just before the play starts, director Susan E. Evans urges the audience in Hayward's Douglas Morrisson Theatre to put their right brain on hold and give in to the imaginative urges of their left brains.

It's good advice because if you let your sober-sides right brain come to the party, you'll sit through "Eurydice" checking for speed limit signs on the road to Hades -- and see none of the imaginative charm of Sarah Ruhl's fanciful retelling of the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice through the eyes of Eurydice.

In one sense the play, which runs through Sunday, is something of an expansive daydream that tumbles mostly through the mind of Eurydice and, to a lesser degree, the other characters.

The show begins as Eurydice (Alisha Ehrlich) and Orpheus (Aby George) are to be married, then quickly moves to the wedding reception, where the young woman strolls outdoors for fresh air. Almost immediately, she is confronted by the Nasty Interesting Man (Davern Wright, who also plays the devil later), who talks her into coming to his apartment because he has a letter from her late father (Tom Reilly), currently in Hades.

Eurydice follows the man to Hades, where she meets her dad but doesn't recognize him because when she walks into the place, all her knowledge has been stripped away. Her father, however, has managed to hang onto his smarts, a fact he is keeping secret from Hades officials so he can retain the ability to recall his daughter and the power to think and write.

So, Pop can teach his young daughter old tricks, like speech and thought, and chat with the occasional hellish servant and to the stones (big, little and loud -- played by Allison Fenner, Bessie Zolno and Pamela Drummer-Williams), who make up a sort of Greek chorus, commenting on the passing scene and chatting now and then with Eurydice's dad.

Orpheus then turns up to claim his bride, and Eurydice must choose between the man she loves and the man she loves, but not in that way.

The play ends tragically, but you are still dealing with the possibility all of it has been some sort of surreal dream. You also realize the play has been a lot more intense than you realized as you watched it, with some important things to say about love, life and death.

Ruhl wrote the play as a tribute to her father, who died when she was a 20-year-old college student. She saw it as one final conversation with her dad, who was a scholar and very fond of words and word play.

And for something so seemingly playful and poetic, there is plenty of stick-to-your-brains nutrition there. The play stays with you, even though the devil rides a tricycle.

Evans does an excellent job of directing, filling the play with tiny surprises and keeping the pace quick and the wit sharp.

The set by Michael Locher is a wonder with details reaching to the ceiling, a claw-foot bathtub as a centerpiece, and the look, at different times, of any-city, or the waiting room of hell.

Sound, so often something of an afterthought, is well presented by Donald Tieck, who creates his music and effects onstage, rather than recording and leaving them. This gives the sound the feel of improvisational jazz, beautifully timed to the action on stage.

'EURYDICE'
Written by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Susan E. Evans
WHERE: Douglas Morrisson Theatre, 22311 N. Third St., Hayward
WHEN: Through June 9
RUNNING TIME: 1 hour, 20 minutes
TICKETS: $29, 510-881-6777; www.dmtonline.org