category: two-act full length
running time: 2 and a half hours
setting: The Mythical Mediterranean and Beyond
period: Classical Times
The Storyteller/The Sibyl/Teresias
The Old Man/Anchises/Poseidon
The Beautiful Girl/Penelope/Aphrodite
The Smart Girl/Circe/Athena
The Proud Girl/Nausicaa/Hera
The Golden Boy/Telemachus/Apollo
The Black Sheep/Polyphemus/Dionysus
The Strong Brother/Antinous/Ares
The Weak Brother/Eurymachus/Menelaus
Around a bonfire on a beach somewhere, the survivors of a massive war panic as they realize that they don’t know where to go. They tell the story of a pair of heroes, one from each side of the conflict that has left both at the beginning of a long voyage with no promise of ending: Odysseus, who wants to return to his home, and Aeneas, who must lead his band of survivors to a new home. Both journey for many years, and encounter many similar events. Odysseus and his men are trapped by the cyclops Polyphemus, and when they blind him so they can escape, earn the wrath of Poseidon, his father, who ultimately drowns Odysseus’ crew. Aeneas is cursed by the goddess Hera, still upset that she lost the contest of the Golden Apple to Aeneas’ mother, Aphrodite. Both men are loved by women they must leave, Aeneas by the beautiful Dido, Odysseus by the witch Circe, and both lose their parents- one his father, one his mother. Both men journey to the underworld for guidance and make peace with the absurdity of life in the face of unavoidable death. In Ithaca, the home of Odysseus, his wife and son are plagued by suitors to Queen Penelope who would force Prince Telemachus from his home and marry her to one of them against her will. Along the way, the Gods are themselves transformed by the changing times, acquiring new names and importance as mortal values and identities begin to shift on the material plane. Odysseus arrives home and reconnects with his son. Together and aided by the goddess Athena, they kill the suiters, just as Aeneas and his son, Ascanius, settle the survivors of their home in the kingdom of the Latins, where Aeneas must fight the local chieftain, Turnus, for the hand of the princess Lavinia. Both men triumph and achieve their journey’s end, albeit at great loss, and reflect on their past in the final moments before the Boy, youngest of the survivors who began the play, takes over the narrative, inviting the audience to tell him a story while The Man, no longer possessing a name, is escorted to his afterlife by the Hero who was, once, his nemesis.
A direct follow up to See Also All, this play took me less time but probably still has farther to go- a rather on point statement considering the themes of the play. As much as the first play was about exploring how the archetypes which form our collective unconscious can determine our lives, this play was an exploration of how much we can defy our own expectations, and there is an optimism, hope, and celebratory aspect of this play, in spite of its many absurdities and moments of violence, that makes it as much of a candle in the wind as the previous play was a wind in the door. Massive in scale and yet somehow more intimate than the previous play, this combo of the Odyssey and the Aeneid fulfilled lifelong ambitions to adapt both, and embodies the challenges of adapting both, namely making a coherent ensemble piece of what is essentially two road-trip plays, albeit on boats. What I hope it is able to capture is the conflict and tension we all feel about the journeys we are on, between the desire to have arrived and know it all turns out okay, and the desire to journey forever, to never have to leave anything or anyone behind, to never have to see anything end. Written in the months following the death of my mother and during the lead up to my fortieth birthday, this play also contains a markedly different portrayal of death, so aggressive and terrifying in the first play, now quiet and gentle, almost benevolent. Perhaps more than anything this demonstrates both the growth of the narrative that unites both pieces, and the complimentary aspect of each one as a mirror of the other. Still unlikely to be fully staged, probably ever, they at least emerge as a literary whole, my masterwork/opus, the fruit of a lifetime of loving these stories and feeling like, of all the stories out there, they most adequately give us some idea of what it means to be human. A friend has jokingly suggested I title them together as the “All Or Nothing Plays” and that seems pretty on point. Certainly the gable of producing them would be an epic one.
The EXIT Theatre, October 10, 2019, part of the “San Francisco Olympians Festival” at The EXIT Theatre in San Francisco, California. Directed by Alejandro Emmanuel Torres. Cast: Joe Ayers (The Friend/Achates/Hermes); Ron Cook (The Old Man/Anchises/Poseidon); Adrian Deane (The Smart Girl/Circe/Athena); Laura Domingo (The Beautiful Girl/Penelope/Aphrodite); Julian Harbison (The Golden Boy/Telemachus/Apollo); Carl Lucania (The Father/Eumaeus/Zeus); Steve Maulers (The Man/Aeneas/Odysseus); Kyle McReddie (The Strong Brother/Antinous/Ares); Sunil Patel (The Black Sheep/Polyphemus/Dionysus); Jared Polivka (The Hero/Turnus/Thanatos); Miguel Ramirez (The Weak Brother/Eurymachus/Hephaestus); Alison Sacha Ross (The Storyteller/The Sibyl/Teresias); Kim Saunders (The Mother/Dido/Thetis); Kaz Valtchev (The Boy/Ascanius/Eros); Vicky Victoria (The Woman/Andromache/Eris); Wera von Wulfen (The Proud Girl/Nausicaa/Hera)