by Lynn on January 23, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. Written by Margaret Atwood. Directed by Kelly Thornton. Designed by Denyse Karn. Lighting by Kimberly Purtell. Composed and sound design by Suba Sankaran. Choreography by Monica Dottor. Starring: Maev Beaty, Neema Bickersteth, Fiona Byrne, Audrey Dwyer, Sarah Dodd, Monica Dottor, Megan Fellows, Kelli Fox, Cara Gee, Patricia Hamilton, Nicole Joy-Fraser, Pamela Sinha, Sophia Walker.

Kelly Thornton’s beautifully directed production of The Penelopiad has been remounted this year for a second run at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre until February 10. This is Margaret Atwood’s look at how Penelope waited patiently for her husband Odysseus to return first from ten-year Trojan War and then his very long ten-year trip home. Odysseus stopped frequently along the way for various adventures with one-eyed monsters and two-eyed femme fatales and sirens.

Penelope in the meantime waited. Suitors came and pressured her into catering to them. They were a lusty, hungry lot. And rowdy. She was kept busy feeding to them; keeping them amused and keeping them at bay. They wanted her to chose one of them and admit that Odysseus wasn’t coming home. She had a ruse. She said she had to weave a shroud for her father-in-law and when she was finished she promised to marry one of them. She picked twelve of her most trusted maids to help her weave and in the evening would unravel what they had created. The maids were sworn to secrecy. The suitors got suspicious and raped them. They didn’t confess and kept Penelope’s secret. She in the meantime couldn’t protect them and nothing she could say would make up for it. Finally Odysseus returns and saves the day and kills the suitors. But because he doesn’t know the truth about the maids he has drastic plans for them too.

Margaret Atwood’s play, based on her book of the same name, is a lively, funny, moving account of a story usually told from the point of view of Odysseus. With this focus Atwood comments on feminist attitudes, the idea of the dutiful wife, loyalty, faithfulness, integrity, class tyranny and living by your wits to name a few. I found it to be unlike Atwood’s other novels and quite appropriate as a play.

There are four cast changes from last year’s production and director Kelly Thornton has tweaked some scenes here and there, but the production is as strong as it was, still as fresh, still as moving.

As Penelope, Megan Follows is both innocent, as the young bride to this macho icon, and wise, when she has matured and is perceptive enough to know both the good and bad points of her wayward husband. It’s a performance full of self-awareness and perception.

Kelli Fox again is a robust, lusty, and touching Odysseus. The body language is full of swagger and confidence. There is also delicacy and tenderness with Penelope. Fox continues to give a rich, compelling performance of this exasperating man.

As Eurycleia, the old busy-body nurse of Odysseus when he was a boy, Patricia Hamilton is a whirl of motion, nosiness, arrogance and pushiness when trying to protect her ‘boy’. And as Helen, the cause of so much trouble in the story, Pamela Sinha is alluring, sensual, and self-absorbed.

Monica Dottor’s movement and choreography is elegantly vivid; there are so many arresting images because of her work. And Denyse Karn has created her own vivid pictures with her design of the few props and set pieces and costumes. It is beautifully lit by Kimberly Purtell and again Suba Sankaran’s music and sound scape add another dimension to a multi-faceted production. Terrific.

The Penelopiad plays at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre until February 10.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.