Also see Susan's review of Glory Days
Director Mary Zimmerman, who received a Tony Award for her adaptation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, has created another dazzling incarnation of ancient myth with Argonautika, the current production at the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Lansburgh Theatre in Washington. She uses innovative stagecraft and boundless imagination in her dramatization of the epic voyage of Jason to capture the Golden Fleece.
Zimmerman has worked closely with her designers – Daniel Ostling, set; Ana Kuzmanic, costumes; John Culbert, lighting; and André Pluess and Ben Sussman, sound design and original composition – and her cast members to create a visionary universe on the wide-open Lansburgh stage. Ostling's scenic design starts with the bare-bones elements of a wooden platform and ladders, along with ropes and lengths of fabric, but ultimately conjures up raging oceans and sea monsters, billowing sails and majestic palaces. Goddesses peer down from a ceiling trap, and a glittering water nymph rises through a hole in the floor.
Another noteworthy part of Zimmerman's stagecraft is the integration of Michael Montenegro's puppets, which give life to creatures as small and gentle as an infant and as large and fierce as the skull-headed Harpies who constantly assail the prophet Phineas.
The story follows Jason (Jake Suffian), nephew of King Pelias of Iolkos (Allen Gilmore), as he leads a crew of heroic men and demigods into the unknown to bring back the fleece of a golden ram from the distant land of Colchis. The Argonauts introduce themselves to the beat of African drums, from the strong but stupid Hercules (Søren Oliver) to the impassioned Meleager (Andy Murray) and the brave twins Castor (Chris Kipiniak) and Pollux (Casey Jackson).
The heart of the story, in Zimmerman's retelling, is the destructive love between Jason and the young sorceress Medea (Atley Loughridge), whose father, King Aietes of Colchis (Oliver), keeps the Fleece. The goddesses Hera (Lisa Tejero) and Athena (Sofia Jean Gomez) realize that Jason cannot succeed without Medea's help, so they ask fluffy Aphrodite (Tessa Klein) to sway Medea away from her father and toward Jason. The wound caused by the arrow of Eros has never seemed so bloody and painful as it does here.
Shakespeare Theatre Company