Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Review: Argonautika

Lisa and I visited the Berkeley Rep on Saturday to see Mary Zimmerman's Argonautika. The story is the well-trod story of Jason and the Argonauts.

Since the play was only two and a half hour long (with a fifteen minute intermission), the story had to move fast. Narration is performed by the two goddesses involved in the story: Hera and Athena. Special effects abound. Actors descend from the ceiling suspended by wires, the trapdoor under the stage is used to good effect, and the stage itself was extremely well constructed.

I love how miniatures are used on stage to depict the larger picture, while the action on the stage shows a close up of what's going on. The cast seemed well rehearsed, though one still catches a flub or two here and there. A lot of the motion on stage seemed particularly strenuous, with rope climbing and flipping off the raised platform being quite common.

What amazed me was how well the action scenes were handled. In particular, when King Amycus challenges the heroes to a boxing match and Pollux accepts, the actors move in a simulated slow motion fashion which was just absolutely hilarious. Clearly, this is not a play an audience would be able to watch without the context and prevalence of modern action films.

The scenes that were made a big deal out of in the liner notes, the ones where Medea betrays her family for Jason because the gods made her fall in love, however, seem just a bit contrived. However, that does not detract from the overall quality of the play.

All in all, we definitely got our money's worth, and it was great fun for two hours. Recommended.
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