Monday, March 21, 2022

Margin Notes: Discus

Philip Estrera and Patrick T. Horn as Apollo and Hyacinth.
Photo by Al Foote.

Seen on: Saturday, 3/19/22.
My grade: A-

Plot and Background
"I need to pray. Where am I?" Hyacinth, a mortal prince, awakens to find himself no longer in life, but somehow not yet in death. Caught in the Nether, he tries to remember how he got here, and what came before, flashing back to the time leading up to his injury. In these flashbacks we see a gala benefit hosted by the god Apollo, where the two meet and have an instant attraction, growing closer over time, to the chagrin of Hyacinth's former lover, the jealous west wind Zephyrus. Hunger and Thirst's production of Becca Schlossberg's Apollo and Hyacinth retelling was originally slated for 2020, but was delayed two years by the *gestures at everything*.

What I Knew Beforehand
Nothing of the story, which is always exciting, but I've enjoyed a number of Hunger and Thirst's previous outings.


Play: This is a beautiful work. Sweet and intimate, with still the epic threads that are sewn into any myth involving the pantheon. Playwright Becca Schlossberg's work exists both in the then of the original myth and the now of contemporary mores, where Hades has a PDA and the gossiping winds sound like any young starlets at a Hollywood party, looking to score either a hook up or word of someone else's hook up. Even with this grounding, Schlossberg doesn't shy from the larger question of how do you love a monster--for a god who lives forever, even if today he is kind and generous, is the same god who a generation earlier called down a plague and jealously murdered his sister's mortal lover. Is he the same person he was, or, like the Ship of Theseus, is he constantly rewriting himself when no mortal is left to remember who he was before? Is he worthy of the sweet prince Hyacinth, and is he strong enough to wrest him back from death when disaster strikes? Can love live on when the body cannot?

Cast: At the center of the play, of course, are Patrick T. Horn as Hyacinth, simultaneously innocent and knowing, eager to please and resolute; and Philip Estrera as Apollo, glad-handing and glib at first, then rash and heartbroken. The two men have excellent chemistry and trace the path of their romance with gentle honesty. With slightly fewer colors to play, Apollo's sister Artemis (Patricia Lynn) and Hyacinth's spurned lover Zephyrus (Alejandra Venancio) do their best but often seem to be repeating the same scene, using the same tactics. Venancio's precise physicality, however, is quite compelling, especially in the toad transformation sequence. I found myself riveted by every tense muscle, every twitching finger. As Zephyrus's gossiping siblings Notos and Boreas, Rita McCann and Alexander Settineri are uneven: when they're playing a clear intention, their characters come alive and each line earns a laugh, but when they lean more on attitude it all starts to wash away. But the hidden gem here is nearly a cameo role: onstage for only one scene, Victoria Fragnito's Hades is a true highlight of the production, clear and cutting and sharper than anyone she's met. I wouldn't mind seeing a Persephone/Hades play built around her.

Design: Any reader of my reviews knows that I love thrust stages. I think they really open up the space and invite both director and performers to build dynamic and kinetic stage pictures. Director Jenn Susi pays off this promise for the most part, though in isolating some scenes to only select sections of the performing space, she creates a sense of unnecessary claustrophobia. I do very much like the performance space, for the record, and even though no scenic designer is credited for this production, I have to give praise to its simple yet highly functional design: a square of (painted) granite tiled floor with lilac mortar connecting the stones, audience on three sides, and deep blue-purple (the color of the hyacinth flower, of course) draped fabric as the backwall. Co-lighting designers Austin Boyle and Paige Sebel beautifully and precisely sculpt the space, bringing luster to the draped fabric, warmth to the  granite floor, and isolation Hyacinth on one cramped tile as he kneels to pray, to remember. And without spoiling the nature of the moment, Hyacinth's moment of revelation (a collaboration between lighting and costume design) is particularly shocking and beautiful. I will admit to a bit of confusion with Christopher Metzger's costume design, which garbs gods and titans alike in a mixture of delicate retro lingerie and S&M leather straps. Only Hades among the lot has a coherent look to her costume. Randall Benichak's sound design, while sometimes highly effective (particularly the toad transformation sequence) can grow oppressive in its unceasing soundscape. 


Running: Now playing at The Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at the A.R.T./NY Theatre Spaces (Hunger and Thirst Theatre) - Opening: March 19, 2022. Closing: March 26, 2022.
Category: play
Length: 1 hour, 30 minutes, no intermission.

Creative Team

Playwright: Becca Schlossberg
Director: Jenn Susi
Designers: Alyssa Rios (Stage Manager), Christopher Metzger (Costume), Kat Karl (Assist. Costume), Austin Boyle and Paige Sebel (Lighting), Randall Benichak (Sound), Patrick T. Horn (Technical Supervisor), Patricia Lynn (Dramaturg).
Cast: Philip Estrera, Victoria Fragnito, Patrick T. Horn, Patricia Lynn, Rita McCann, Alexander Settineri, and Alejandra Venancio.

Victoria Fragnito and Philip Estrera as Hades and Apollo. Photo by Al Foote.

No comments:

Post a Comment