Reviewed by Matt Ritchey
A Noise Within‘s production of Mary Zimmerman’s, Argonautika tells an ancient tale, but the storytelling is anything but traditional. Director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott employs dance, silks, puppets, and impressive staging to bring the Argonaut’s journey to life, a thrilling spectacle with action, comedy, pathos, and some truly lovely acting.
Jason (Ty Mayberry) has returned to his home country to celebrate the birthday of his uncle King Pelias (Alan Blumenfeld) of Iolcos. Fearful of a dream he had of a one-sandaled man who is prophesied to kill him, Pelias plans Jason’s death, as Jason arrives with only one sandal, having lost one in the river, helping an old woman (disguised goddess Hera (Veralyn Jones)) across. Pelias sends Jason across the seas to fetch the Golden Fleece, a fool’s journey, from which he’s sure Jason will never return.
Jason gathers the greatest men and demi-gods in the world, including Hercules (a hysterical Frederick Stuart), and Idmon the Seer (Evan Lewis Smith). They board the great ship the Argo and head off, unknowingly assisted by Hera and the goddess Athena (Trisha Miller) as they brave crashing rocks, sea monsters, and magic. Finally landing in Colchis, Jason meets Medea (Angela Gulner), daughter of the King, who vows to help him get the Fleece if Jason will marry her and take her with him back to Iolcos.
The production soars with incredible lighting, sound, and staging; singing, dance, and spectacle. It’s a fantastic bombardment of energy which Rodriguez-Elliott wisely crafts with some touching moments between Jason and Medea, Hercules and his love interest, and a beautiful song about the Women of Lemnos.
Zimmerman created the script with a mixture of translations from texts and work with her original actors, so while the stylistic classical structure and some of its speech remain, many modern moments pop up, most played for laughs, and played well at that. In fact, if there was a quibble to be had with the production at all, it’s that the production plays the material straight, without giving us a new point of view on the themes and stories. The modern sets, lights, and the wonderful mix of styles on ANW‘s impressive stage bring about a new visual interpretation of these classic stories but doesn’t bring us a feeling of how we as a modern audience are connected to these ancient stories.
Or perhaps that’s the very point and we are offered a show free from message, allowing and perhaps daring us to discuss how our storytelling and characters have (or haven’t) changed over the centuries. The telling of the stories has changed, but have the characters? And should they? Or do we learn more about ourselves by seeing who we used to be?
Ultimately, these are questions that serve as a sweet treat after a succulent feast full of sights and sounds that should please everyone from the casual theatergoer to the hardcore historian. Argonautika is a gem.
Copyright © 2019 Gia On The Move
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator”.