It is not often that I find myself questioning why a theater company would tackle a show such as the one that I witnessed tonight. Theatre Y, I must say is a company that accepts challenge as it works to bring forth its “Mission” to “discover overlooked masterpieces in global contemporary theater and bring them to Chicago”! Thus says Theatre Y Artistic Director Melissa Lorraine. This they have done. “Penelope, O Penelope”, now in its US Premiere (in English) was written by Simon Abkarian and comes out of Homer’s “Odyssey” as told in modern day perspective.
Is this a story about a young man coming home from war after twenty long and hard years, to find that his wife is somewhat involved with another man? Is this a story about a man seeking revenge for the death of his father? Is this a story about a man trying to set things right for all those who are still surviving? Or, is it just a story about love- how long can it last and what is the cost to those who are involved?
Directed by Eva Patko, and performed in the theater that is located on the second floor of the St. Luke’s Church located at 2649 N. Francisco (two blocks west of Calfoirnia Avenue) in Logan Square. Francisco is a one-way street, heading SOUTH, so it is best to turn on from Diversey, The theater area was at one time the chapel, so it has a high ceiling with arches. For this production, the stage floor is all sand, so we are at the sea shore and the back of the stage is a huge white screen that is used for lighting effects, shadows and video. FYI- there is a character who is only on the video portion of the show, and yet was in the audience to take her bows.
This production which is two hours and twenty-seven minutes (with one intermission) is the telling of a story in a unique fashion with a very small (and talented) cast, but a show that I found quite long and very often confusing. What was real! hat was not! Who is who? Why are they dancing? There were times that it was difficult to hear the dialogue and although I know that the coming of the rats has some importance to the story- it does not truly get explained and in many cases becomes a sort of comic relief as actors hop over them, and then in one scene, an actual rat is used, and is played with and almost causes the actress to drop her props. Is this really needed?
I will say that the actors, in some cases, overcome the script and the direction-Rich Holton as Theos and Elias is powerful, Melissa Lorraine as Dinah and Sofia brings both characters to life and they never cross over. Catalina Vasile deftly handles Odessa and Daiva Bhandari is a strong Nuritsa. Kevin V. Smith takes on the role of Ante with great energy and while he shows his strength , once again, the script and the direction get in the way of what might have been an award-winning performance.
I give credit to this young company for reaching out to explore new avenues, but I truly think they need to consider their location and their venue, when selecting plays to do. Then, what they should consider is if they need to do shows that are over two hours. Perhaps this show could have been cut down and some of the extra “schtick” removed. That might have helped the audience stay with the who’s who and what’s what!
“Penelope, O Penelope” will continue at Theatre Y thru May 17th with performances as follows:
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 7:30 p.m.
Sundays 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $20 (general seating) and $15 for Students and Seniors. There are only about 48 seats, but you can see all the action from every seat in the house, and for those sitting in the first row, the rats are not real!
Parking on the street is FREE and there is plenty available.
To see what other sare saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up an click at “Penelope,O Penelope”