Imagine a set that had unlimited possibilities. It would be like staging a play in a prop room or a costume room with all the resources you would need at your fingertips. Enter Hamlet. He will need a sword so you reach out and take one. Now in comes Dracula; he, of course, requires a cape - done. The princess will of course need a crown or tiara. But no worries, we have a dozen to choose from.
Before magic of the theatre and its magical storage rooms, I found my imagination needs at my grandmother's house. It was perfect! Countless old things. Old cloths that, with enough creativity, could costume half of Shakespeare's cannon. Toys that took a lot of imagination to figure out what they were. And plenty of hiding places to make your next grand entrance from.
Of course these plays were never scripted, seldom planned and had very little to do with theatre. But the playing that we did was some of the most exploitative and uninhibited. Anything was possible.
Now enter the world of Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice and our heroine's journey to the underworld. This world is created out of bits and fragments of memories. With Eurydice's grandmother wandering about and her father telling stories what is was like growing up, the setting begins to seem very familiar; like a memory that you can wrap yourself in. As it takes form it is something that is no longer scary but comforting.
One production design I saw even choose to actually set the play in grandmother's house. Ruhl gives clues with the turn of the century references and objects like a phonograph or tricycle that are used in the play.
To give a more concrete image, I would like to conjure Bookman's Alley in Evanston. This used book store seems to be constructed out of nostalgia. Seeming a little dustier than it actually is, old objects inhabit the shelves along side the books to give it that grandmother's house feel. Objects perhaps forgotten as the years pass. But once remember they open the flood gates to a rush of thousands of other forgotten memories.