The classic story of prophecy, betrayal and Greek myth was brought to life with imaginative flair and colorful performances when it opened in the Troutt Theater Friday night.
“Argonautika” presents the ancient account of Greek hero Jason and his crew, the Argonauts, trying to escape their own foretold deaths in pursuit of glory, wealth and the fabled Golden Fleece. In their way, however, stand sea monsters, gods and their own hubris.
Mary Zimmerman’s interpretation of the familiar narrative is faithfully recreated at the direction of Dr. James Al-Shamma and Annie Mathews, balancing tried-and-true ancient storytelling with a modern sense of humor.
In fact, the production’s attitude as a whole is one of its greatest strengths — it knows when to get serious, but most exposition and action sequences are laced with humor, giving the story life and character.
This is especially true for portrayals like Madison Bailey’s Athena, whose role in the story involves both dramatic narration and hilarious dialogue, and Jacob Gill’s Hercules, who delivers some of the story’s funniest and most emotional moments.
The play wastes no time introducing its entire cast of personalities, though, from the legendary protagonist Jason, convincingly portrayed by Jacob Proctor, to the clever goddess Hera, who’s given striking personality by Natalie Brown.
While the performances are standout, though, they’re only a part of what makes the play so good.
The stage brings plenty of character all on its own, with several moving parts, immersive lighting effects and Troutt Theater’s strong sense of scale. Peyton White’s stage management and Paul Gattrell’s lighting and set design work in tandem to create an atmosphere that fits the ancient story perfectly.
The score stands out, too — it’s mostly made up of subtle string arrangements and soft vocal harmonies, but it goes a long way in building tension and ambience. Some sections involve live musical performance as well, making the play’s pacing even stronger.
Ultimately, “Argonautika” is as imaginative as a fantastical Greek myth deserves, and kept the audience captivated from start to finish.
Tickets are free for students and available online and at the box office.
This article written by Justin Wagner. Photo courtesy of Rick Malkin Photography.