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The Odyssey: a Journey Home

a Drama
CATEGORY :
by based on Homer; adapted by Richard Garner

COMPANY : Georgia Shakespeare [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Conant Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 3844

SHOWING : October 07, 2010 - October 31, 2010

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Georgia Shakespeare's world premiere adaptation of Homer's epic adventure holds Odysseus' 10-year journey home from the Trojan War up against a kaleidoscope of our modern soldiers returning from war. As his wife and son await his return, Odysseus must battle the Cyclops, a six-headed monster, Sirens and other demons before landing on the shores of Ithaca. Bringing a modern relevance to this classic story, The Odyssey proves that even after the war ends, the fight to get home continues.


CAST & CREW LIST
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REVIEWS

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Stagecraft
by playgoer
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
4.5
Georgia Shakespeare's "The Odyssey: A Journey Home" is an amazing piece of stagecraft. The set, consisting of steps at multiple angles framed by bowed ship ribs, acts as a background for light projections and wonderful fabric effects. Simple rods take on varied roles -- the logs of a raft, staffs, poles, masts, the logs in a campfire. The ingenuity of the staging is really the star of the show.

From a purely visual perspective, the show is perfection. The costumes, while not remarkable, are appropriate. Lighting is far better, adding greatly to the atmosphere of the show. The atmosphere is aided by Kendall Simpson's mournful music.

The main problem with the show is a lack of urgency. We know from the initial framing scene that a modern-day soldier will take a journey that in some way parallels Odysseus', a journey that will conclude only at the end of the performance. Add to that the fact that Odysseus' story is told starting as a nurse's reading of "The Odyssey" and continues as Odysseus narrates his past adventures to the ruler of Phaeacia, and you have a pretty static story-telling structure.

Most of the fun in the production comes from the actors taking on multiple roles. Even Joe Knezevich, who plays Odysseus, also plays the soldier in the framing sequences. Odysseus himself is a bit of a prankster, telling the Cyclops that his name is "Nobody," which makes the Cyclops appear a fool to the gods when he requests their help against ... nobody. The funniest moment is probably when the three women in the cast walk on as cows, with cowbells around their necks. Eliana Marianes adds a sloppy cud-chewing expression that adds to the humor, and Tess Malis Kincaid leads a look to the audience with raised eyebrows as the women are called "cows." The most memorable set of performances, though, comes from Carolyn Cook, who (besides a cow) plays Athena in all her earthly disguises, the seductive Circe, an aged servant, and a few other assorted roles, all with complete believability. No one gives a bad performance.

The show ends on a bittersweet note. The wife of the soldier (Tess Malis Kincaid) reaches out her hand to him, but he does not respond in turn. Their son (Craig Thompson) looks on with concern. This is perhaps realistic in terms of the effects of post-traumatic stress syndrome (on which the authors engaged expert help), but it doesn't provide a resolution of any sort. It does, however, add to the overall mournful tone of the piece. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Post-Traumatic Theatrics
by Dedalus
Thursday, October 28, 2010
4.5
Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven
Far journeys, after he had sacked Troy’s sacred citadel.


Homer’s Odyssey is the epitome of the epic journey. Filled with trials and tribulations, gods and goddesses, temptations and heroics, triumphs and failures, it is such an archetype that its eponymous hero’s name has become synonymous with “Epic Journey.”

Dramatic adaptations are as common as clay, from Joyce’s “Odyssey of the mundane” (Ulysses) to the Coen Brothers’ comic riff “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Now, Georgia Shakespeare has produced a collaborative adaptation initiated by artistic director Richard Garner that puts the ancient hero’s journey into the mind of a modern soldier trying to “come home” from a too-close, too-real encounter with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

Filled with breath-taking theatricality and just-the-right-size-for-life performances, “The Odyssey – A Journey Home” is a satisfying foray into modern myth and ancient story. While it would have been nice to see more direct modern parallels with the specific Homeric episodes (Cyclops/Media-Lack-of-Perspective? Sirens/Drug Addiction? Scylla & Charybdis / Public Indifference & Military Contempt?), the concept features enough character correlation that it rings true throughout.

Joe Knezevich caps a triumphant season at Oglethorpe by playing the haunted hero. Bearded and traumatized, he is a contemporary veteran, hearing the voice of helicopters in ceiling fans, wordlessly channeling the fear and guilt and night terrors of any-soldier, journeying towards a delayed reunion with his wife and son. As a kind nurse (Eliana Marianes) reads to him from Homer’s classic, his doctors are transformed into Zeus and Athena (Chris Kayser and Carolyn Cook), his longed for family into Penelope and Telemachus (Tess Malis Kincaid and Craig Thompson). The small company (all familiar faces from the festival’s summer season) transforms into other characters as well, the mythic figures from Odysseus’ journey, the earthbound moderns from the soldier’s own; the suitors of Penelope to be vanquished before the homecoming is complete, the demons of memory to be reined in before healing can begin.

I loved the sheer theatrics of this piece, flowing cloth and hidden benches becoming rolling waves that support Odysseus as his ship founders, shadowed Cyclops and Scylla that slowly steal the hero’s crew, haunting sirens with their song of longing and doom. There’s even time for humor, as the cursed cattle of Helios ruminate their flank steaks and leave Odysseus alone at last, Yes we’ve seen a lot of these effects before (especially in the equally Odyssey-centric “Pericles”), but they have yet to overstay their welcome through overuse, and they quickly and effectively evoke the internal/archetypal journey of the hero.

What especially works with this adaptation is that it successfully tells the soldier’s story without losing the epic quality of the Homeric source. It takes the grand myth of Homer and uses it to tell the very realistic story of the soldier. The set consists of silhouetted ribs, looking like the skeletal belly of a sailing vessel, with lighting and “found” items doing the “heavy lifting” of transformation, of setting the many scenes, of illustrating the grand journey of Odysseus while illuminating the personal journey of the soldier.

This production, with its “Look at me” theatrics and its intimate story-telling, evoke nothing less than the grand old tradition of telling a story by firelight. Only, in this case, the story transforms subject, tale-spinner, and listener alike.

Most myth is about transformation (“Metamorphosis,” remember?), and this is in that tradition. Just as Odysseus is transformed by his journey, the unnamed soldier is transformed by the tale. Just as Odysseus overcomes the dangers of his journey to reach home and “slay the dragons” that have invaded his home, the soldier overcomes the fear and guilt that have delayed his own journey. Just as the ancient gods watch over Odysseus until he is reunited with his family, the modern doctors lead the soldier on his own journey home.

So spoke Athene, and with happy heart he obeyed her.
And pledges for the days to come, sworn to by both sides,
were settled by Pallas Athene, daughter of Zeus and the aegis,
who had likened herself in appearance and voice to Mentor.


-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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The Battle in the Heart of the Warrior
by ARich317
Friday, October 22, 2010
4.5
"Must you have a battle in your heart forever?" This three thousand year old line speaks loudly in the heart of every soldier in history struggling to get back home, either physically or psychologically. This contemporary adaption to connect Homer's Oddessey to today's War in Iraq does not detract from the profound message of the original work, but instead enhances the unity of this universal and timeless theme. As seen with Oddesseus and with many of our struggling soldiers, the end of the battle does not always also bring the end of the soldier's own fight to get back home. This wonderful play revives the classical epic by making yesterdays story today's. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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