Review by L.Records
There are a lot of things to like about the Odyssey Theatre's production of Sliding into Hades:
First and foremost, you have to admire the intention and courage… guts, really, of the production. Sliding into Hades is a retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice legend through an ensemble of 7 Koan Ensemble actors, using methods of storytelling far different than the standard "play". There was ritual, ensemble work, movement, obvious thorough exploration, and stunning visual pictures, to aid in their storytelling. To enhance their storytelling. Unusual in these parts. Cool. Exciting. The Odyssey's theatre ensemble (specifically the Koan Ensemble) is one of the few groups in town that dares to consistently explore theatre in this way. This production in particular, was imaginatively written by Aaron Henne, conceived and directed by (Artistic director) Ron Sossi. You may have seen one of their past productions: Faust Projekt (June 2001), Buddha's Big Nite! (April 2003), and Kafka Thing (March 2005). All of these "process-oriented" (their words, not mine) collaborations have a unique and mesmerizing style. What a breath of fresh air to see a pieces of theatre that don't purely cater to the "Blue Hairs" (an affectionate term for older theatre patrons), a scary prospect due to the fact that the Blue Hairs seem to be the only regular theatre goers in 2007. Not catering to your bread and butter is a scary prospect. The Koan Ensemble shows great courage, not only in this production, but in their past ones as well.
The theme of this production is intriguing as well. The idea explored in this myth retold, is the thought that we can overcome death by pure self-determination. Almost like the self-belief that we can do anything we put our minds to, (provided by supportive parents everywhere) but taken a step further. The thought that we can cheat death by ego alone is simply and sadly not true. We have amazing human potential with which we are challenged to use to its fullest extent day in and day out of our lives, but when it ends, it ends. We don't get to prolong, no matter how much zip, no matter how stubborn, no matter how much it seems like we live in a society that provides a fountain of youth. For the right price, that is. Not true. Do we handle it with grace? Do we fight? Interesting questions, this is just the beginning… there are so many more in this production. You gotta love thought provoking theatre. I do.
The use of their space was exceptional. The environment was visually and audibly magical. Hats off to Set Designers Hans Pfleiderer and Julianne Elizabeth Eggold, lighting designer Kathi O'Donohue, Sound Designer Kurt Thum and Costume Designer Swinda Reichelt. I am often guilty of not giving these folks enough credit for their part in the success of a piece. Their contribution to success is obvious in this production. Your senses will be stimulated, right along with your mind.
How's that for a list of things to like about Sliding Into Hades? Need more? Alan Abelew (older Orpheus) and Beth Hogan (playing a variety of juicy roles). These 2 are not to me missed… ever, probably. Ochuwa Oghie and Cary Thompson were basically "ensemble" the entire show (usually a thankless job) and they shine as well.
How about the fact the show runs for 80 minutes with no intermission? I love it!
Is this the perfect theatre piece? Have I just found nirvana in the theatre world?
No. Absolutely not. This piece is flawed. The truth is, I wanted to like it more. I wanted to love it, and I didn't. I believe you should see it for all of the reasons above, but you should know the things below:
The cast is obviously a bunch of highly talented collaborators. They have great chemistry together. But some of their individual performances were simply not good. This happened when they took on their specific roles of young Orpheus or Eurydice. Great as an ensemble. Not great as the specific, major roles in the show! Eeek! A major problem when retelling this myth. You got to have strong lead characters.
It was a little pretentious at times and cheesy as well. Understandable when mounting a world premiere. Some things are not going to work, and you gotta get out the kinks. This production has some kinks that should just go! Orpheus travels through realms of absurdity, regret, anger, shame, doubt, despair, and obsession... wow, see what I mean? These were each separate areas he passed through. There were some strong visuals in these crazy places, but could we cut back and explore a few in more depth?
Sometimes I rolled my eyes, sometimes I winced, and sometimes I was totally taken in. The cast so obviously believes in, and is dedicated to what they are doing, that for this reason alone, it is worth the price of admission. How often do we see passionate actors on stage in LA? Well you can find them here.
They do have pay what you can nights and student discounts!
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West LA
Wed.-Sat 8 pm
Sun 2 pm thru June 17