Valencia State College
By Margaret Atwood
Directed by Rebekah Lane
Starring Ashleigh Ann Gardner and Mary Grace Meyer
In experimental theater, it’s so rare for the experiment to succeed. But I’m happy to report that this immersive exploration of Margrett Attwood’s take on Odysseus’s wife Penelope (Gardner and Meyer) gives us a sad yet heartfelt story as we wander about the Valencia Campus. Ms. Meyer acts as our guide and exposition dispensers; she relates how she’s a daughter of a human and a Nyad, and thus carries some of the Olympian Gods in here blood. Down on the ground Ms. Meyer and troupe of versatile women act out the foot race that brought the couple together, their early life and Odysseus’s call to join the Trojan War. While Odysseus fights his pointless war, Penelope keeps the house running. When people guess Odysseus must be dead she defends herself from eager suitors who don’t think much of her looks but love the pots of gold left by her husband. As her son Telemachus (Logan Creasman) comes of age he wants to fight the parasitic house guest. But he’s too weak to defeat them all and only Penelope’s subterfuge keeps them safe. Eventually the elderly Odysseus returns, kills the visitors, and gives us happy ending.
The show is set throughout the Valencia campus; it features a network of covered walkways allowing students to stay dry between central Florida rain storms. The older Penelope guides us, the younger on interreacts with the cast as they shift form nymphs to soldiers and minor gods. The action is stylized and stripped out the essentials, leaving the words to do the heavy lifting. The pressure put on by the suitors feels real, as does Telemachus’ frustration at his diminished situation. When Dyess returns, the killing is stylized but effective, and we cheer for the reunion. I recommend this show, but dress for the weather and be prepared to take the campus tour.