EURYDICE, Piven Theatre. Like many writers before her, playwright Sarah Ruhl adapts the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice to her own devices, though the basic tale remains unchanged: Orpheus’s music so moves the gods that they allow him to retrieve his wife from the underworld. Some of Ruhl’s innovations are intriguing: Orpheus descends to Hades by elevator and “showers” in the river Lethe, and worms carry messages between the upper and lower realms. What’s lacking is a coherent context for these fanciful motifs, particularly once Ruhl adds the characters of Eurydice’s father, who dwells somewhere between life and death, and a grandmother’s tap-dancing ghost.
Bernard Beck is winsomely grave as Eurydice’s selfless sire, while Polly Noon and Sean Cooper strive for emotional intensity as the giddy newlyweds. But having a single actor (who rides a tricycle at one point) play Hymen, Aristaeus, and Hades soon grows as disorienting as the children’s chorus is annoying. If we don’t know where we are, what happened when, or who’s telling the story, it’s hard to muster much sympathy for anyone’s pain or loss.