In The Penelopiad, Penelope tells her own story. In case you've forgotten since you had to read it in high school (which is many years ago for some of us), Penelope is the wife of Odysseus, who left her with their son Telemachus while he went off to fight in the Trojan War for ten years, and then took ten years to return because of all the obstacles he faced on the way home. What we know about Penelope from the old stories is that she remained faithful to her husband (the same can't be said about him) for 20 years and resisted many suitors in the hope that he would one day return, which he eventually did. This play gives us the opportunity to hear Penelope's side of the story.
|Helen (Eva Gemlo) with Penelope
(Audrey Johnson) and her maids at her
wedding (photo courtesy of Theatre Unbound)
Julie Phillips directs the talented and diverse all-female cast (which also includes ensemble members Christy Johnson, Danielle Krivinchuk, Emma VanVactor-Lee, Eva Gemlo, Haley Haupt, Kara Haack, Megan Kim, Melissa Miller, Morgen Chang, Rhiannon Fiskradatz, Tia Tanzer, and Wendy Freshman), bringing out all the meaning and lyricism in Atwood's text. The stage is draped with gauzy white curtains, with weaving hung around the space that later functions in the plot. Penelope is dressed in a lovely lavender gown befitting a Greek queen, with a "shimmering robe" for her wedding, while the maids are dressed in identical red hooded tunics (bringing to mind that other popular Atwood story). The ensemble members play many other characters, defined by jackets or different colored dresses. The overall effect is aesthetically pleasing and aids in the storytelling. (Scenic and properties design by Ursula K. Bowden, costume design by Alexandra Gould.)
|the maids (photo courtesy of Theatre Unbound)
The Penelopiad continues through December 1 at Gremlin Theatre in the midway area of St. Paul. If you're not familiar with Unbound's work, this is a wonderful introduction to the important work that they do telling women's stories.