PROMETHEUS BOUND // CYCLOPS
Translated by Marianne McDonald and J Michael Walton
One of the greatest and one of the earliest stories’s ever told, Prometheus was the Titan, who, against the will of Zeus, stole fire from the gods for the benefit of man. His terrible punishment by Zeus, and his continuing defiance of Zeus in the face of that punishment, remains universal symbols of man's vulnerability in any struggle with the gods.
In the epic drama Prometheus Bound, Aeschylus recreates this legendary conflict between rebellious subject and vengeful god. Chained for eternity to a barren rock, his flesh repeatedly torn by a ravaging eagle, Prometheus defends his championship of mankind, rejoicing in the many gifts of language and learning he has given man despite Zeus's cruel opposition.
This only extant satyr play of Euripides, The Cyclops abounds in lusty comedy and horror: Odysseus and his men, driven by storms onto Cyclops' shores, find that the Cyclops has already enslaved a company of Greeks.
When some of Odysseus' crew are seized and eaten by the Cyclops, Odysseus resorts to spectacular stratagems to free his crew and escape the island.
Perhaps the earliest form of comedy, The Cyclops is certainly one of the funniest and surprising.
CYCLOPS is performed in tandem with PROMETHEUS BOUND
Directed by Douglas Lay.
Critics; A Grand Opening:
The Theatre, Inc. Opens Their New space
By Martin Jones Westlin, City Beat
What with all the wine and the Greek food and the wine, and the Greek dancing and the wine, and the Greek plays and the wine, the Nov. 7 gala that opened The Theatre, Inc.’s new space pretty much hit the spot.
I’ve faulted translator Marianne McDonald in the past for a tendency to underwrite characters once she’s done turning their ancient Greek speeches into English—but she gives us flesh-and-blood people in Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, about the title character’s sad fortunes when Zeus catches him giving man the gift of fire (as Prometheus, Brian Abraham totally passes a gruesome test of physical stamina).
Ditto for Cyclops, Euripides’ comedy about the treacherous life among a buncha crazy ol’ satyrs.
Pam Kragen for North County Times
After one year of peripatetic existence, The Theatre Inc. has opened its own permanent space, at the former ARK Theatre in downtown San Diego, with a trio of classic Greek plays.
Artistic director Douglas Lay said he signed a five-year lease on the 2,000-square-foot corner shop at 899 C St. and has spent the past two months remodeling it into an attractive, flexible black-box space with 50 comfortable seats in a tiered layout. Lay's future plans for the space include building a classical lending library, and serving as a center for concerts, lectures, master classes and more.
The Theatre Inc. is dedicated to reviving classics and many of the works he produces are modern translations of the Greeks by UC San Diego classics professor Marianne McDonald. She's the translator for all three shows in repertory this month at The Theatre Inc. ---- the double-bill of Aeschylus' "Prometheus Bound" and Euripides' "Cyclops," and a remounting of the company's past hit, Euripides' "Helen." "Prometheus" and "Cyclops" opened last weekend and "Helen" opens Sunday. They'll alternate through Dec. 14.
The new theater space is a big improvement over past venues for Lay's shows. It's clean, comfortable, spacious, well-appointed technically and surrounded by ample pay parking. An especially nice touch are the video projections designed by Tom Christ that add a lot of dramatic action to "Prometheus Bound."
Lay directs "Prometheus" and "Cyclops" with an eye for color and movement, enlivening the mostly static "Prometheus" and turning the goofy "Cyclops" into a giddy free-for-all. McDonald's translations are faithful but contemporary, making the stories accessible to audiences of most ages (the subject matter is not suited for children).
"Prometheus Bound," considered by many to be Aeschylus' greatest work, is a play of ideas. The god Prometheus stole fire from Zeus (to enlighten the minds of humankind) and as punishment, Zeus has him chained to a rock to teach him a lesson. But rather than beg for mercy or forgiveness, Prometheus suffers long and nobly, railing at the gods on Mt. Olympus and finding some salvation in his sacrifice. Many historians have described Prometheus as a Christlike figure and in Lay's production, actor Brian Abraham spends the bulk of the play with his arms suspended by chains in crucifix fashion.
Abraham's performance is the best part of the production. His emotions swing believably from pain and despair to determination and rage. Prometheus refused to bend at the cost of enormous suffering and Abraham does a fine job portraying the arc of the character's emotions. Rhys Green is a bit broad in the dual roles of Oceanus and Hermes and Bianca Chapman is good as Io and Hephaestus. Melissa Hamilton, Vanessa B. Milton and Diana Sparta are well-synched but often talk too fast as the brave and steadfast choral trio, the Daughters of Oceanus.
"Prometheus Bound" and "Cyclops" are presented together without an intermission, and the light satyr play "Cyclops" is a nice antidote to the dark conclusion of "Prometheus."
The satyr plays were broad, highly sexual burlesques featuring men dressed in animal skins and often wearing large phalluses as props. Typical plots involved drunken revelry, masturbation and sexual high jinx. The satyr plays were usually presented at the end of the day after audiences had watched two or three tragedies (drinking heavily in between each show) and their plots often spoofed the classic tragedies that preceded them.
"Cyclops" parodies the ninth chapter of Homer's "Odyssey" when Odysseus stops on the isle of Sicily and encounters (and outwits) the cannibalistic cyclops monster. In Euripides' comic version, the cyclops shares lodging with a trio of cowardly satyrs whose only priorities are fornicating and drinking (they're a sharp contrast to the brave Daughters of Oceanus in "Prometheus Bound," who vow to stay by his side to the end).
In Lay's silly, 15-minute production, Chris Fonseca is a dim-witted Odysseus who manages to outmaneuver the cyclops (Abraham in a bristled mask) in spite of the distracted satyrs, played by Greg Lawson, Devin O'Neill and Marcuz Rodriguez. Green once again overacts, this time to appealing comic effect, as the Daddy Satyr. Lay's production infuses the tale with modern rock music, silly costumes, Keystone Kops-style chases and in-your-face audience interaction.
"Cyclops" is the only satyr play to survive in its entirety, so while it may not hold a lot of substance, it's a window into the past that would otherwise be closed. Obviously the ancient Greeks found bawdy, sexually inappropriate humor just as funny as audiences do today. Some things never change.
The opening of the shows, Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, and Euripides’ Cyclops was yet another dramatic treat from The Theatre, Inc. The tech backdrop of the mountain where Prometheus was chained by order of Zeus, with the clouds swirling around it and the sound of wind and thunder intermittently, is perfect. The stage is in darkness but for the light of the background, as Oceanus and his daughters look on, as Hephaestus does the work, chaining Prometheus to the rock for eternity because he gave fire to mankind.
The image of Prometheus hanging, chained with his arms outstretched, in the semidarkness, will stay with me. Thus was Christ on the cross, also.
Prometheus is silent all through this horrific ordeal as the others converse around and about him, till finally when the deed is done, then he groans mightily, calls upon the elements of nature, and entreats the gods to have pity on him. This first utterance of Prometheus, in translation by Dr. Marianne McDonald, is heart-rending, descriptive of the situation and poetic in language.