What we got for our $20 was a wonderfully choreographed recitation of Ovid's Metamorphosis.
Image going to the grocery store and buying a frozen "Italian dinner," letting it thaw in the hot sun, and having it for dinner. Now image that you go to an Italian's house, where they decided that you are worth cooking for, and give you a full, home cooked Italian dinner. That is the difference between myth read in a book and myth performed for you. In all my years and all my teachers, this idea that myth was something a people recited and performed is something that made sense, but something that I never understood. Myth from a book is cold and dead. It's the TV dinner of human experience. You have these wonderful tales, yet something of the humaness that these tales describe is missing. The missing element was us. You. Me. PEOPLE. That is what this performance brought.
We arrived late. When we entered, the story of creation was just ending. One performer slowly left the room, draging a great sheet of white with him. From beneath, newly revealed dancers look about, stand, realize that each other are there. These are the earliest of peoples. They dance the tales of confusion, adoration, nervousness, love, and giddiness. From the moment I saw the dancers, I saw a troupe of performers who cared for this tale. In no place did I ever feel that the actors/dancers walked through the performance. They were all there for the audience, active a ready: four men and six women.
From there, they performed tales with dance and recitation. They read from Ted Hughes' translation of Ovid. Some voices were vague but beautiful. Other voices were clear and full of passion.
Passion describes many of the tales. There were many kinds of passion. Bacchus and his bachinalea drove men into passion. Adonis fell passionately for himself. The passions of men and women took them into terrible crimes: incest, rape, and murder. These performances began by arousing you with the most basic sexual passions, sights and sounds. I said to myself, "Wow, this open and honest." The second act brought that into relief, as the terrible side of passion showed itself. First, passions that lead to destrction, then passion that lead to crime. By the time that we reached the tale featuring kidnapping, rape, begging, murder, and cannibalism, the level disturbing element of passion had me almost flying from my seat.
The performance itself was on a large floor. The audience sat on two sides, joined at the corner. The performance floor was unadored and bar. The costumes they were were simple and "Romanish" while remaining costume. With small bits of costuming or simple props, they changed character. A dancer put on a black sarape and became Arachne. Another put on a flower boa and became Venus. A simple gold drape, and an actor became King.
I wish that I could share this with you. I wish that you could see. Alas, the show is now closed. The performance is now an echo on my brain, and my description of it no more satisfying than the picture on a microwave dinner.