There are a number of reasons to spend a September evening out in Pacific Palisades where the Getty Villa* is presenting its annual classic theater offering, the least of which is the play itself, for despite intense, committed performances, innovative design, and a couldn’t-be-better setting, Prometheus Bound remains that most acquired of tastes, Greek Tragedy.
Tops on the list of pluses is the opportunity to stroll through the Getty Villa during the hour or so before performance and savor its classic Greek architecture, gorgeous gardens, and exquisite Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities dating from 6,500 BC to 400 AD. Whether or not you have a yen for ancient Greek drama, you couldn’t ask for better pre-show entertainment.
Also recommended is a dinner under the stars, tasty “casual Mediterranean-inspired fare” served at the Getty Villa café with the villa itself providing the ideal backdrop.
The open-air Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater is probably the closest thing we Angelinos can get to the setting in which the Ancient Greeks “World Premiered” the latest works by the Greek Tragedy Triumvirate—Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides—way back in the 5th Century BC. (The mind boggles that these playwrights’ words have survived these two and a half millennia.) Still, though comfortable cushions have been provided, audiences are cautioned that all seats are back-support-free.
The pièce de résistance of Efren Delgadillo, Jr.’s ingenious scenic design is spectacular indeed, a gigantic steel wheel measuring twenty-three feet in height and representing the mountaintop where Prometheus spends endless days and nights inveighing against injustices of the gods who have punished him for having stolen fire from Mount Olympus as a gift to mortals.
Ellen McCarthy’s striking retro/avant garde costumes (many of which would not look out of place on a Milan catwalk), Anne Militello’s dramatic lighting design, and jazzy original music by Vinny Golia and musical director Ellen Reid (performed live by Golia and Chris Lopes) combine to make the most of what remains, even in its new translation by Joel Agee, unwieldy source material to this reviewer’s ears and tastes.
Under Travis Preston’s direction, Ron Cephas Jones does powerful work in the title role, one which has him chained to Degadillo’s wheel almost entirely throughout. Mirjana Jokovic digs deep as well in her role as Io, and supporting turns by Michael Blackman (Hermes), Adam Haas Hunter (Kratos), Joseph Kamal (Okeanos), and Tony Sancho (Hephaistos) are uniformly fine.
Above all there are the twelve supremely talented, graceful, athletic, and indefatigable women of the Greek Chorus: Sarah Beaty, Kaitlin Cornuelle, Genevieve Gearhart, Jenny Greer, Heather Hewko, Paula Rebelo, Megan Therese Rippey, Jessica Rosilyn, Chuja Seo, Kalean Ung, Amanda Washko, and Tatiana Williams. I have no idea how (or if) Mira Kingley’s modern-dance choreography relates to Prometheus Bound’s dialog or plot, but it is quite dazzling to behold, and these twelve performers deserve a medal for strength and endurance if nothing else.
Notwithstanding all of the above, as Shakespeare so aptly put it, the play is indeed the thing, and audiences members unfond of an evening of long, ponderous speeches may find themselves checking their watching during Prometheus Bound’s mercifully short running time of under seventy-five minutes.
Fred Fitzgerald is production stage manager, Amanda Eno stage manager, William Honigstein technical director, and Gary Kechely.
Following last September’s triumphant World Premiere of Nick Salamone’s clever, mesmerizing, and oh-so entertaining adaptation of Euripides’ Helen, this year’s Prometheus Bound comes as a letdown. Though Greek tragedy buffs may beg to differ, the many pluses in this year’s Getty Villa entry do not outweigh the evening’s one big minus, the play itself.
*Produced by CalArts Center For New Performance in association with Trans Arts
Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater, The Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades.
September 3, 2013