by Lynn on November 23, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

An expanded review of the CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, 89.5 fm review of Friday, Nov. 23.

At Hart House Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Margaret Atwood

Directed by Michelle Langille

Set by Holly Meyer-Dymny

Costumes by Cat Haywood

Lighting by Steph Raposo

Sound by Andy Trithardt

Music director, Jonathan Corkal

Cast: Rose-Ingrid Benjamin

Amanda Cordner

Shannon Dickens

Brianna Diodati

Julia Hussey

Nyiri Karakas

Jeanne-Arlette Marie Parson

Shanoa Philips

Ellie Posades

Neta J Rose

Hannah-Rae Sabyan

Kyra Weichert

Arielle Zamora

 A terrific production, beautifully directed.

The Story. Bless Margaret Atwood for giving Penelope a voice to tell her story.

Her husband Odysseus leaves to fight the Trojan War—for 10 years. Then as he sets out for home, he has more trouble: bad winds, a Cyclops, sirens, seductive women that keep him with them for another 10 years. All the while Penelope, his patient, loyal, loving wife tries to cope with the attitudes of Odysseus’ parents who think Penelope is useless as does Odysseus’ nurse.

She has to cope with these attitudes, her son Telemachus’ bad temper, bad manners and lousy character, and she has to fend off many suitors who want her to pick her new husband. She stalls them by saying she has to make her father-in-law’s shroud. She makes it by day and with the help of 12 of her maids tears out the work at night. The maids are loyal against all odds.

The Production.  The production is fabulous. Truly. The cast is composed of budding young actors with Penelope played by the wondrous Amanda Cordner, who is a professional Actor’s Equity actor.  Cordner as Penelope is regal, biting, fiery, commanding, guilt-ridden and wily.

The story is told in flashbacks. Penelope addresses the audience from the underworld where she is with her 12 maids. For all their loyalty the maids were killed when Odysseus came home because he was told they were disloyal (not true).

The mean rumors of Telemachus and one of the servants convinced Odysseus to dispatch the maids by hanging them, while Penelope slept. She knows of their loyalty and what they endured to protect her and had she known what Odysseus planned she could have stopped it. But the maids are dead and now in the underworld they won’t look at her and again, she is alone.  Moments are relived to see how Penelope coped and to explain her story to us.

The surprise for me is the director, Michelle Langille. I’ve seen her work as an actor, but here she does a terrific job of staging 12 maids and the others in the cast.  She has a sense of economy in her direction and the ability to create vivid images.

The 12 maids carefully make the huge nooses that will be used to hang them. The maids suggest being hanged by holding the noose beside their heads then they tilt the head to the side. But then there is a sound effect of rope holding something heavy as it ‘swings’ in the air and the rope groans with the weight of what it is carrying.


Comment.  I love that Margaret Atwood tells the story from Penelope’s brave, loyal point of view—along with her servants—but it still is a man’s world here. She’s not given credit for keeping the suitors at bay nor is Odysseus’ long absence questioned. He’s a man and he’s entitled in that society.  Women, wives are meant to serve and wait silently.  Atwood gives us the gulp factor—that no matter how much Penelope valued her maids misinformation resulted in their deaths and she is suffering as a result of it.

And at the end of the story, she’s still loyal to Odysseus even though she knows his ways and he’d be off when a new adventure presented itself.  Atwood conjures a world where a woman’s life is not her own, where she has to live within the dictates of the men in her life. Atwood does it with humour, seriousness and a sense of the world of ancient Greece and our own modern world.

Produced by Hart House Theatre

Opened: Nov. 9, 2018.

Closes: Nov. 24, 2018.

Running Time: 90 minutes

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