A new take on a Greek classic
By Julia Siedlanowska, Staff Writer
More fire, more music, and more fear is what I wanted from director Stephen Drover’s Penelope. What I’ve come to expect is a kind of sexiness in his productions ever since I saw his production of DenmarK, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, for Douglas College in 2010. I had expectations for Penelope that were not exceeded.
A comedic, modern adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey by Irish playwright Enda Walsh, Penelope stars four men, all vying for the hand of one woman, who are stuck in the bottom of an empty swimming pool. These men are the only survivors of 100 who fought for the love of Odysseus’s wife before Odysseus returned after 20-years and killed them.
Upon entering the theatre, I was faced with the most memorable and outstanding part of Rumble Theatre’s latest production: the set. Designed by Drew Facey, the set offers multiple layers of discovery. We are at first distracted by a cluttered landscape of beer cans and liquor bottles in what looks to be the remnants of a party. Soon the lights behind thick walls of glass reveal that we are at the bottom of an emptied swimming pool.
The set contains exactly the same bachelor pad hints as the dialogue did. We discover the homemade bathroom walls made of cardboard, and the table made out of a door. The environment’s hidden gems are slowly revealed and defined throughout the show by our discoveries and the story’s development.
The comedy is certainly spot on, though the element of fear is missing. In the moments where comedy turns black, when these men are fighting for love and for their lives, we are never truly afraid for them.
The monologues are tight and well-navigated and the moments of comedy—especially in bits of action—are brilliantly crafted, though the experience remains largely intellectual. We are never truly in pain for these characters. In the pinnacle moment when the alpha male is betrayed and killed by his companions, we are unable to actually feel for him.
The only true moment of whole-bodied pleasure is the very last. We are told of a dream that the men shared the night before about the combustion of their barbecue predicting their death at Odysseus’s return. The end is a spotlight on the face of Penelope, played by Lindsay Winch, as her husband returns and a prophecy is fulfilled with pyrotechnics. The combination creates goose bumps.
Rumble Theatre is offering free childcare for the October 6 matinee show at 2 p.m. They are also offering free talkbacks with guest speakers on themes in the play on October 1, 6, and 8. Just bring your ticket stub from any of the shows. More info at rumble.org.
Who: Rumble Theatre
What: Penelope by Enda Walsh
When: September 25 – October 13, 2 p.m./8 p.m.
Where: The Cultch Historic Theatre, 1895 Venables St. Vancouver
Why: Because theatre is great!