Friday, November 09, 2007

The Critics Love It!

It looks like Argonautika is going to be a hit!

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE:

* Argonautika shimmers with humor and sheer genius

* Zimmerman's wryly imaginative, cleverly self-conscious Argonautika is very much an ancient tale reframed for our own time. Its references to "glorious missions," overthrowing tyrants and invaders being greeted with flowers were not lost on a Berkeley audience. But it's also a thoroughly engaging version of a timelessly entertaining myth as told by a theatrical imagination of mythic proportions

* The audience holds its breath

* There's nothing like the ancient myths to evoke the genius of theatrical wizard Mary Zimmerman.

* every bit as exhilaratingly inventive, breathtakingly beautiful, comic and affecting as her staging of Ovid's tales, it's also more cohesive and perhaps even more inspired

* disarming humor, imaginative stagings, surprisingly touching moments and invigorating immediacy

* If you can't see it here, you should think seriously about booking a flight east.

* told with stunning, sometimes humorously self-referential, deceptive simplicity.

* Michael Montenegro's delightful wire, wood and cloth puppets - ranging from small gulls and skeletons to a fearsome giant and nasty, incontinent harpies - interact perfectly with the 14 engaging actors playing the humans and goddesses in Ana Kuzmanic's beguiling tunics, armor and gowns.

* Argonautika is very much an ensemble piece, with every actor standing out in multiple roles.

* Evil kings (Allen Gilmore, Soren Oliver), vain deities (Tessa Klein's Aphrodite) and heroic feats can be hilarious in Zimmerman's retelling.

* Comedy is also a remarkably effective setup for a burst of deeply affecting emotion, as when Oliver's buffoonish-macho Hercules mourns his lost lover, Hylas (a sweetly engaging Justin Blanchard).

* The capsule: Theatrical wizard Mary Zimmerman’s stunningly imaginative, engagingly comic, affecting and invigoratingly immediate Lookingglass Theatre retelling of the ancient myth of Jason and the Argonauts’ quest for the Golden Fleece, and his ill-fated romance with the virginal sorceress Medea, is a 2 ½-hour treat in its Berkeley Rep West Coast premiere. Graced with beautiful, deceptively simple design, inventive stagings, beguilingly wry puppets and a thoroughly engaging cast, it’s a modern take on an old tale of ambition, deception, heroism, love and unintended consequences.

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS:

* In its sublime West Coast premiere at Berkeley Rep, "Argonautika" revels in not just Zimmerman's trademark visual fantasia but also her mastery of form and motif.

* Argonautika fuses the elegance of a ritual with the full-throttle thrill of adventure. She sets the heart pounding and the imagination ablaze for the drama's nearly three-hour duration.

* The visionary writer-director has a gift for unleashing the power of mythology to reveal secrets of existence. From the Tony-winning "Metamorphoses" to the contemplative "Journey to the West," she has divined an incandescent theatrical alchemy wrought from poetry and tableau, the most elaborate language paired with the simplest stage picture to fire the subconscious

* Here she recounts the epic of Jason and the Argonauts to reveal the hero's journey as a metaphor for all of us, buffeted by unbearable loss, pierced by the arrows of love gone wrong, courageously forging ahead in the face of our own mortality.

* Zimmerman's political statement, that war is full of pointless suffering, drives the production with a sense of urgency that contrasts with her usual meditative aesthetic.

* the tragedy of the piece still shakes us to the core. Jason's encounters with love and loss charge each stunning tableau with an emotional force approaching catharsis.

* The director takes time to etch each leg of the legendary expedition meticulously.

* each moment feels as fully realized as it is highly stylized. The performances ground the loftiness of the fable in flesh, blood and raw emotion.

* This is a ballet of details, danced to perfection.

* images flow seamlessly from one stage picture to another, as Jason (Jake Suffian) rides the ocean's waves to his destiny.

* Jason does battle with every deadly creature the gods can muster, from centaurs and dragons to his own unslakable lust for power.

* perfectly suggests the inescapable nature of the human animal, staring up at the stars, longing for the future, but constrained by the past.

* The upshot: The visionary director once again sets sail for the age of gods and monsters and channels the power of myth to touch us where we live today.

CHAD JONES’ THEATER DOGS:

* Zimmerman dazzles in adventurous Argonautika

* Four stars Argonaut-to-be-missed

* With director Mary Zimmerman at the helm of the Argos, you know the voyage is going to be interesting.

* Sure enough, Zimmerman, the Chicago-based visionary whose work has won her a Tony Award (Metamorphoses), a MacArthur “genius” grant and the admiration of audiences across the country, renders the story of Jason and the Argonauts with her typical passion and flair

* Zimmerman at her most accessible and enjoyable.

* gorgeous storytelling in which surprises abound.

* What we don’t expect is the abundant humor – of the frat-boy and high-minded variety – or the fantastic songs (sound design and composition by Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman) or the pockets of emotional complexity as the story evolves into something more than a myth and becomes a whole lot more about human loss and love.

* The whole show takes place in a beautiful, open-backed wooden box (set by Daniel Ostling, stunning lighting by John Culbert) that is meant to evoke the deck of the Argos. To my mind, the set seemed to be more of a storytelling gymnasium in which the actors get a workout taking turns as narrators, playing multiple roles, flying in and out of the set, setting up the ship’s rigging and fighting Michael Montenegro’s terrific bare-bones puppets (the giant, the harpies and the dragon are particularly enjoyable).

* the depth and pleasures of truly remarkable storytelling.

1 comment:

knitica said...

who did the costumes?

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