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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Crown of Shadows: the wake of odysseus

Crown of Shadows
Michael Morrow Hammack and
Deborah Hazlett

Playwright Jason Gray Platt had a promising idea: use the story of Odysseus' return from the Trojan War, and the effect of his absence on his wife and son, to parallel the life experiences of contemporary military families. It's a shame that Crown of Shadows: the wake of odysseus, receiving its world premiere at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, isn't more interesting or engaging.

Although several years have passed after the end of the war, Odysseus, the king of Ithaca, has not returned home; most of his subjects believe he is dead, but his wife Penelope (Deborah Hazlett) steadfastly believes that he will return. Since the ruling council insists on a male ruler and won't consider Penelope her husband's successor, she attempts to balance the demands of many power-hungry suitors (all played amusingly by Jefferson A. Russell). Her son Telemachus (Michael Morrow Hammack) is going through adolescence, wanting to assume his father's role but uncertain of his abilities. His difficult relationship with Calliope (Julia Proctor), daughter of one of Odysseus' advisors, does not help matters.

Director Blake Robison is unable to keep the competing threads of the plot in some kind of balance. Is this a coming-of-age story, a political thriller (what happened to Calliope's mother, who disappeared when the girl was a small child?), a tale of the dirty secrets of the rich and powerful, or a bloody revenge tale? The playwright's only apparent point of view is that no one is guiltless; each of the characters is sometimes dark and violent—not to mention manipulative in ways that suggest The Manchurian Candidate.

Hammack ably embodies Telemachus' self-absorption and contempt—not to mention his unlikability—while Hazlett camouflages her character's ruthlessness with an innate elegance and Bill Clarke's sleek costumes.

Misha Kachman's scenic design suggests both the ruins of antiquity and more modern decay, with a rather obviously symbolic pool of water in the center.

Round House Theatre
Crown of Shadows: the wake of Odysseus
April 11th - May 6th
By Jason Gray Platt
Telemachus: Michael Morrow Hammack
Penelope: Deborah Hazlett
Calliope: Julia Proctor
Chief/Suitors/Bennetos/Coach: Jefferson A. Russell
Directed by Blake Robison
4545 East-West Highway
Bethesda, MD
Ticket Information: 240-644-1100 or www.roundhousetheatre.org


Photo: Danisha Crosby


-- Susan Berlin


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



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