Note From Jon


Thursday, February 28, 2008

“Who gives a f@ck about a fleece?”

So it may not have been a literal translation from the Greek. Regardless, the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Argonautika was my kind of theatre. I was taken right back to high school—which is good since Centreville High School had a damn good theatre program—with the ensemble cast narrating in unison, Athena’s Suzuki voice, and even a fabric river (which was probably the only clichéd staging of the entire show).

I’m an instant fan of Mary Zimmerman and her tech crew. There were some strong acting performances (and one phenomenally stilted one—which I am convinced had to be the director’s (poor) choice), but what made the show was some of the most ingenious staging I’ve ever seen. I believe I even whooped with joy after the scenes when Hercules killed Andromeda’s sea monster (an actor under an ocean of cloth, holding two stuffed eyeballs through the sheet) and when Pollux slayed the boxing King Amycus (best stage combat I’ve seen involving a two-story monster played by a puppet covering a couple of vertically-stacked actors—complete with slow-motion finishing moves worthy of Mortal Kombat). The literal, and increasingly bloody, Cupid’s arrow that Medea wears through herself in the second act perfectly symbolizes her fate.

The whole design crew was strong, but particular standouts were Michael Montenegro’s puppets (never has a bundle of cloth behaved more like a real baby… which made murder-by-string-cutting poignantly brilliant) and Pluess and Sussman’s sound design (from the sound of the furiously scribbling Fury to the transformation of a puppet eyeball into a stage-filling dragon-that-never-sleeps).

Aside from those I’ve already mentioned some of the memorable moments and lines I want to record are:

  • The Argonauts “Roll-call” rap and the rigging of the stage as the Argo (followed by flying around that rigging in perfect sync with Poseidon’s man-handling of the Argo’s scale model)
  • The final images of the cast as constellations, and the interpretation of the Zodiac as characters in this particular myth:
    • The Golden Fleeced Ram = Ares
    • The fire-breathing bulls Jason tamed = Taurus
    • Twin Argonauts Castor and Pollux = Gemini
    • The serpent that next sleeps = Scorpio (stretch?)
    • The pitcher that dooms Hylas = Aquarius
    • The maiden Medea = Virgo
    • Hercules the Hunter = Orion (which isn’t a Zodiac sign but should be since it’s one of the only constellations I can reliably find)
    • Pisces, Capricorn and Libra were such stretches that I can’t even remember them now and I think Leo and Cancer were left out altogether.
  • And in addition to the headline quote a few favorite lines as best I recall (most of which you’ll notice were memorable for their shock value in a “Greek” play):
    • “I was fucking winning!” Cried the dismayed Hercules after Hera breaks his oar during the rowing contest.
    • “Happy Birthday” What I believe I heard a Harpy puppet exclaim as it flew offstage… after it puked and shat on its prisoner.
    • “Are you thrilled your sister is a whore?” Aietes challenge when sending Medea’s brother and a suitor after Jason… and a subsequent response “I’ll cut his dick off and make a eunuch of him”
    • “As long as you remain a maiden, your father has some claim on you” Jason’s pickup line, which leads in short order to Athena commenting “Oh yes they did! Right there on the fleece”

In conclusion… that $10 ticket was a hard to beat value (although there is always the Shakespeare Free-For-All)

1 comment:

Darren said...

you forgot the first rule of theater club never tell others of good theater deals that have a limited supply, please remove that line soon, I don't want to have to fight the likes of J-Lo for a ticket. Great show, but I knew it would be good and that Jon would like it. Now I wish more plays would get the same inspiration to do some real theater!