Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review: Idomeneus, A Play

Billed as the United States premier, Chicago's Sideshow Theatre Company shuffles and struts on a shifting real sand set to bring Idomeneus by Roland Schimmelpfennig, translated by David Tushingham, to a Midwestern public during the months of August and September 2012 when most theater venues are dark awaiting the new season openings.

The DCA Storefront Theatre on East Randolph in Chicago is an intimate seating. Translate the two words into a minimal, find your own seat, bare-bones theatre. If you want red carpets, ushers in tuxedos and dainty champagne flutes during intermission, this theatre is not for you. The ticket price reflects the environment. The stage production, little over an hour with no intermission, is rightly the attendee's main focus, and, while the production is ambitious, it definitely comes across as fuzzy.

Idomeneus goes back to Greek mythology. Theatergoers are given a half-sheet handout on the Trojan War. If you don't read it, don't worry you haven't lost any understanding of the play. Idomeneus is not a well-known historical figure. At most, he was the King of Crete, mentioned in Book III of the Odyssey. In Homer's Iliad, Idomeneus was in the first rank of Greek generals. He was superior in the battle at Troy. By some accounts he rode inside the legendary Trojan Horse.

After being victorious at Troy, he supposedly struck a deal with Poseidon during a return-home voyage to save his ship during a violent sea storm that sunk seventy-nine other vessels laden with the general's troops en route to Crete. The deal struck is that, upon landing, Idomeneus is to slay the first living being he comes across. This turns out to be his son.

This is where "fuzzy" comes into focus. If the review reader doesn't understand the preceding sentence, then that is how the person in the play's audience often feels. Throughout the play there are several presentations where something is said to happen, and, then, not to happen. The energetic presentation by the actors is overwhelmed by the contradictory words. The fuzzy nature is parallel to what history says, and most often doesn't say, about Idomeneus. If the play was summoned out of nothingness, as it appears, then any moral imparted would be that of the author. In the end, the play ends without apparent moral.

The stage is mostly sand, a real honest-to-goodness child's sandbox. When Idomeneus is buried to the waist at the play's conclusion, it's easily done. The symbolic significance is not readily apparent. What is apparent is the energy of the cast who never really go off stage. They move in well designed movement. Special credit goes to McKenzie Chinn, Katy Carolina Collins and Joshua Davis. All actors, by their biographies, have been well grounded in regional theatre. It will not be a surprise if more than one goes on to greater national roles.

Live theater has a charm all its own. If one grasps the full meaning of the play, so much the better. The glass in this production is still half full and its not the local staging nor the actors that let one down.

When one leaves the theater, there is a chance to fill out a questionnaire and receive a piece of candy. That in a nutshell explains the experience of this production. One shouldn't have to take extra steps to fill in squares on a sheet of paper to feel rewarded.

No comments:

Post a Comment