Shadows of Odysseus and Cyclops
photo: Chris Maresca

Theodora Skipitares makes beautiful puppets, and she's recruited an excellent team to create video images and a soundscape in support of her staging of Homer's epic. Playing with shadow puppetry, Bunraku, and masked mime, she tries to place her abridged Odyssey in the context of the Iraq war, although Iraq is only hinted at in a video with a character speaking in Bushisms and by a tangential scene about the Walter Reed Army Hospital.

In spite of—or perhaps because of—Homer's example, Skipitares hasn't figured out how to present her narrative. Penelope, played by Meredith Wright, introduces the story "as told by me, his wife," and indeed she provides closure at the end of the show. But nothing in between reflects her perspective. Skipitares's allusions to contemporary issues, hard to miss in the first two scenes, disappear once Odysseus begins his story. Homer's hero says he only wants to entertain, but Skipitares provides little in the way of excitement or humor. (The spare text is about as funny as, well, The Odyssey.) While the show's eclecticism succeeds when mixing puppet styles, Wright's broad delivery, reminiscent of Broadway musical actors brimming with smarmy self-satisfaction, seems out of place. Skipitares's journey has potential, but, like Odysseus, she seems to have lost her way.

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