Lookingglass Theatre. Adapted and directed by Mary Zimmerman. With ensemble cast.
At the end of Zimmerman’s new adaptation, Athena and Hera (an engaging Lisa Tejero)—who’ve guided Jason’s sea-voyage quest for the Golden Fleece—reflect on all they’ve seen. “Don’t be so literal,” Athena tells Hera. “You’ll miss a lot.” It’s advice the director could well have heeded. Zimmerman, an artist capable of theatrical beauty, visual metaphor and emotional resonance, has skimped on those ingredients and instead gone heavy on talky narrative clarity (strangely, given the simplicity of Jason’s story). Imaginative flashes do shine through: A puppet-child dies simply by having its strings cut (Michael Montenegro’s puppets are the most interesting element here). But mostly, the low-grade visuals (tinsel as water, billowing fabric with eyeballs to signify a sea monster) suggest not so much an ingenious remaking of common objects as just cheesiness.
There’s a similar jarring quality to the writing, too. Zimmerman lightens the weighted dialogue with an awkward rap intro of Jason’s Argonauts; a winged Eros asks, “Wussup?” It’s like a classics prof trying to inject his students’ hip lingo into a routine lecture. Indeed, Argonautika seems laden with creative fatigue. That’s even truer of the second act, when Jason meets Medea. The murderess mom’s back-story holds interest, yet it remains just that: a back-story (here, an oddly vacant one) to another more dramatic story we don’t get to see.—Novid Parsi