As The New York Times describes, "The play tells of a woman storekeeper and a handsome, guileless youth who comes in off the highway. A guitar-player, he is a rural Orpheus who descends to rescue his love—not in Hades, precisely, but amid the intrigue, gossip and violence of a hot-tempered town…ORPHEUS DESCENDING is one of Mr. Williams' pleasant plays, with characters determined to free themselves from corruption, with some sensitive philosophical comments in passing about the loneliness of the human being condemned in his world to solitary confinement for the whole of his life. Mr. Williams is in a more humane state of mind than he has been in several years…The introduction of the musical vagabond to the friendless woman who keeps the store, their humorous talk, their serious talk, the simplicity of their liaison after they have come to know each other—all this Mr. Williams has written in his best style of mood, lyricism and tenderness."
"Because of the power and the brilliance and the humor of his writing, it emerges as a consistently moving and captivating experience…the author has done a masterful job of getting inside his characters." – NY Journal-American
Orpheus Descending was first presented on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre in March of 1957, under the direction of Harold Clurman.