Argonautica

Today’s the 28th, which means there’s but 6 more performances of Zimmerman’s Argonautika at the Shakespeare Theater Company. Tonight, tomorrow, and two shows each on Saturday and Sunday. If you’re trying to remember whether I recommended the show or not, well, good luck with that – despite getting to see it opening week I never did a writeup.

Perversely, that’s not because I didn’t like it – I did – or because I had nothing to say about it. In fact, I had too much to say about it and couldn’t decide on an effective tack. So I’ll tell you in short: if you think you might like to see it, you should go – I suspect you probably will.

If you’re interested in a few of the tidbits that made me so conflicted, look below the fold.

Zimmerman stages Argonautika in what I would call an exceedingly theatrical way. I don’t mean that in a campy way, or that anyone is over the top, but rather that this is not a production that makes the slightest effort to go for the seamless movie experience. I think that improves the experience, rather than detracts from it, but certain audiences might not agree. When Jason bears the goddess Hera – in disguise – across a raging river, the water is represented by rippling fabric that’s set in motion by other cast members, on stage and clearly visible in the action. The retelling of the story of the golden fleece includes multiple cast members carrying the magical lamb statue around over their heads, then rigging it to a line and hoisting it up a pole (one of the production’s few static set pieces).

Would that put you off? I think it’s a tremendously subjective thing, and since I am never 100% sure who’s reading my theater writeups – if anyone :) – I’m unsure how much to comment on it. Obviously there should be more to any writeup than just whether it made me happy or not, but who are you, reader? Someone already pre-convinced that live theater is a worthy destination and who wouldn’t find that kind of staging off-putting? Or would you be more comfortable with the ornate movie-like sets of a Major Barbara?

Also interesting in Argonautika is the way Zimmerman plays with the myths, keeping some intact, skimming others, modernizing some bits and keeping others firmly rooted in antiquity. It’s an odd balance, and I wonder: did she want it more modern, but restrain in order to keep audience? Or were those anachronisms unwilling changes themselves? Joseph Campbell would probably think she should have made more sweeping changes; myths are supposed to be true on the inside even if they’re not on the outside, as my comparitive mythology professor used to say. If that requires alterations to make it more on-point for the audience, JC would say, have at it. I enjoyed Argonautika, but I’m not sure I think this was a re-imagining that advanced that cause.

Which raises the question, I think, of at what point would it stop being the story of Jason and the Argonauts and instead just be a whole new story.

If all that seems a little wandering, subject-wise, well, now you know why I kept not writing it…

1 Comment so far

  1. fedward (unregistered) on February 29th, 2008 @ 2:03 pm

    I heard Nicolas Cage is in negotiations to play you in the movie of this review. Is that true?



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