A quick primer for those of you who don't remember your high school or college lit class, The Odyssey recounts the journey of Odysseus as he endeavors to return home to Ithaca after the Trojan War (the subject of another excellent one-man show, An Iliad, starring Stephen Yoakam at the Guthrie last year). Odysseus angers the gods, and they curse him to wander the seas for ten years before he finally makes it home after losing all of his men and ships, only to find his house filled with suitors eating his food and wooing his wife Penelope. It's a story that's filled with much tragedy, as Odysseus watches his men being eaten by a variety of ogres and perishing in the sea, but this version is quite light-hearted. Charlie tells it with a wink at the audience, skipping over parts, giving us hints of what's to come, and pausing the story to explain inside jokes.
His carefully metered speech is a thrill to listen to, every gesture and movement meaningful, as he casts us under his spell. He makes direct eye contact with the audience, thanks us for getting a joke, and encourages us to recite the phrase "rosy-fingered dawn" along with him. He leads us through all of Odysseus' travails, playing all the roles, and casting Odysseus as a bit too curious and bold for his own good. It ends with a poignant reunion as Penelope finally welcomes back her Odysseus, after testing him to make sure he's really who he says he is. The moral of the story is, "You don't give up, because someone needs you bad."
|Charlie Bethel spins the tale of Odysseus|
(photo by Dan Norma
I just happened to attend on a night with ASL interpretation, and even though I don't understand the language, it was almost as fascinating to watch the theatrical performance of Claire Alexander as she translated the words into moving poetry as it was to watch Charlie on stage.
Charlie Bethel's unique version of The Odyssey is produced by Walking Shadow Theatre Company and continues through April 6. Check it out for an entertaining journey through a familiar story.