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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Current Nobody

Also see Susan's review of As You Like It

Current Nobody
Jesse Lenat
Current Nobody, the play by Melissa James Gibson receiving its world premiere at Washington's Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, attempts to retell the epic story of Homer's Odyssey in contemporary, gender-reversed terms. The cast works hard, and director Daniel Aukin has an eye for striking visual compositions, but the 90-minute play often falls into an uneasy middle ground between comedy and drama, and between transcendence and ordinariness.

Homer's poem recounts the adventures of the hero Odysseus in the 10 years between the end of the Trojan War and his return home to Ithaca; how his wife Penelope remained faithful despite being besieged by suitors; and the difficulties faced by their son Telemachus. In Gibson's update, Od (Jesse Lenat) is the stay-at-home husband of war photographer Pen (Christina Kirk), left to take care of baby daughter Tel (Casie Platt) when Pen goes off to cover the war in Troy.

As Pen settles in for 10 years of war, then "goes off the map" during her trip home, Od attempts to cope by marking off the days on the bedroom wall and warming Pen's side of the bed with heated rocks. He remains depressed and oblivious as Tel is left to raise herself with the help of Bill (Michael Willis), doorman and Greek chorus. The "suitors" trying to take Od's mind off his missing wife are documentary filmmakers waiting for Pen's indeterminate return: Joe (Deb Gottesman), Jo (Kathryn Falcone) and Suzie (Jessica Dunton).

The way Gibson reworks elements of the story is frequently clever, if self-referential and rather shallow: the sorceress Circe becomes "Kirk," and Pen uses the expression "Epic story short" as she recounts highlights of her travels. Beyond that, upon her arrival home, Pen tells her rivals, "My husband and I share one of the greatest loves of all time. Look it up." (The "nobody" of the title refers both to one of Pen's exploits and to Tel's lack of parental support.)

While Lenat is convincing and affecting as a man dealing with the ache of constant uncertainty, Platt provides the emotional center: frustrated, furious, unable to make a connection with a mother she knows only at second hand. Kirk makes a serious effort (she does have to say, "I'm from Crete. I'm a cretin," more than once), but she doesn't succeed in conveying much beyond Pen's exterior swagger. Willis, in contrast, makes a lot out of a little as the all-knowing doorman.

The projections designed by Jake Pinholster provide visual interest to Tony Cisek's sleek, compact scenic design.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Current Nobody
October 29th November 25th
By Melissa James Gibson
Od: Jesse Lenat
Bill the delivery guy: Michael Willis
Tel: Casie Platt
Joe: Deb Gottesman
Jo: Kathryn Falcone
Suzie: Jessica Dunton
Pen: Christina Kirk
Directed by Daniel Aukin
641 D St. N.W., Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-393-3939 or www.woollymammoth.net


Photo: Stan Barough


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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