Review: 'The Odyssey' at Taproot is a Greek-bearing gift
Taproot Theatre in Seattle stages a new reworking of the ancient story "The Odyssey," directed by Scott Nolte.
Special to The Seattle Times
'The Odyssey'By Mary Zimmerman, adapted from Robert Fitzgerald's translation of Homer. Through March 5, Taproot Theatre Company, 204 N. 85th St., Seattle; $20-$35 (206-781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org).
THEATER REVIEW |
Patrons in aisle seats at Taproot Theatre's captivating production of "The Odyssey" are advised to keep their feet in front of them. A rather vigorous Hermes, the Olympian messenger god, may very well tear past on his way to help the wandering Odysseus, King of Ithaca, make his way home to the wife and son he hasn't seen for 20 years.
Hermes (Nicholas Beach) isn't the only ancient Greek deity who creatively shows up on, above and beyond Taproot's stage while strenuously intervening in the king's protracted plight. Playwright Mary Zimmerman's rightfully celebrated adaptation of Homer's epic poem (as translated by Robert Fitzgerald), set in the decade after the end of the Trojan War, frames this story as a folly-driven misadventure nudged toward delicate resolution by Athena (Nikki Visel).
This "Odyssey," directed by Scott Nolte, is a model of storytelling at once insightful, proficient (no easy task given 85 characters, dozens of scenes and a fixed set), and thrilling as a work of action. At a Saturday matinee, the audience included a number of young schoolchildren easily following fast-flowing events and accessible, if stately, dialogue. Certainly, colorful moments involving the monstrous, one-eyed Cyclops and creatures pulling Odysseus' men into the sea are exciting for any age.
Athena finds a sympathetic Zeus (Nolan Palmer) prepared to aid Odysseus (Mark Chamberlin), who led an Achaean army against Troy and is now trying to survive encounters with the Cyclops, lotus-eaters, Circe, the Sirens and Calypso on a zigzagging route through scores of Greek islands.
Meanwhile, on Ithaca, Odysseus' wife, Penelope (Pam Nolte), and son, Telemachus (Randy Scholz), tormented by lack of news about him, undergo daily humiliation by thugs seeking Penelope's hand.
But as a work, too, of Homerian noir with a satirical bite about relations between men and women, this "Odyssey" frankly and even comically delivers, from Circe's silly-sexy costume to the male-ego-stroking call of the Sirens.
The Trojan War started with one marriage interrupted (between King Menelaus and Helen), leading Homer to put Odysseus and Penelope through hell to bring the sexes into thematic stability. In his fascinating portrayal of the hero, Chamberlin reveals a king who invites some of that hell, through hubris, mission creep and a knack for unsavory expediency.
Yet you can see the hole in his brave Odysseus where intimacy has been lost but is not a lost cause. This is a king who needs, in every sense, to come home from war.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org
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