You don’t have to know anything about Dungeons and Dragons (hereafter referred to as D&D) before going to see Goldor $ Mythyka: A Hero is Born at the New Ohio Theatre, but fans of the role playing game will enjoy the sly references built into it. Mostly, the protagonists’ obsession serves as a jumping off point for a story about coping with an unjust, cruel world through a self made fantasy. When the fantasy finally disappears after many twists and turns, the play leaves us with some very real questions: What makes something truly heroic? Is it the Robin Hood antics of Goldor and Mythyka? Or the simple act of sticking around even when it’s hard?
This is the first full blown production of the play that has long been in development for The Germ Project, New Georges’ commission of plays of “scope and adventure” that are “unproduce-able.” Taking place at the height of the Great Recession of ’08, Goldor $ Mythyka tells the true story of two down on their luck, working class lovers who decide to rob their former employer after they’re laid off. Products of broken homes and geek culture, Bart and Holly are only able to find the courage to do so within their D&D alter egos. Chased across the post-industrial rust belt of the mid-west, Goldor and Mythyka become infamous as they rob from the rich and give to the increasingly poor, spawning memes and legions of followers. Lynn Rosen’s script – helped along by imaginative lighting and sound design – uses flash backs and flash forwards masterfully throughout their exploits to deepen their relationship and complicate their future.
The performances are top notch and Shana Gold’s direction is impeccable. Guiding us along our journey from before the show even officially begins, is the DJ. Multiple overuses of the “-izzle” suffix and Bobby Moreno’s clownish and energetic rapport with the audience make this omnipotent guide a loveable caricature of what a socially awkward geek might think of as hip. Garrett Neergaard and Jenny Seastone Stern toggle back and forth between dork and warrior with ease as the titular characters and never let their goth costumes and epic affectations disguise their humanity. The mysterious Boy who occasionally pops up in flash forwards to the future is captivatingly gangly and earnest thanks to Bubba Weiler. And ensemble member Ben Beckley’s waiter at a sports bar hideout was particularly funny.
It’s odd that the game of choice for these awkward loners was the inherently social D&D. One can’t help but wonder: Who did Bart play with before meeting Holly? How did they sustain their games with just two people? But letting go of my own geekitude for the moment, the playfulness with which the production mashes the tropes of the game with the conventions of the theater is fun to watch. There are times when the subtext is literally spelled out for you across the walls but, for the most part, the tech serves its purpose of pumping up the audience and transporting us to a parallel dimension where we can be anything we want.
The play only really misses one big mark. Throughout the action, it flirts with anti-capitalist sentiment, mistaking the heroes’ actions for some type of Robin Hood activism. However, Goldor and Mythyka’s actions are neither revolutionary nor subversive. The character arcs are so beautifully crafted and the ending is so poignant, I simply have to wonder at the inclusion of the half-baked Occupy reference in the finale. [Full disclosure: I spent a lot of time down at Zuccotti.] In the end, it detracts from the story’s strength: namely, that acts of love tend to be greater and more heroic when they are small.
An ambitious show, with a lot of humor and a lot of heart, Goldor $ Mythyka is unlike anything else playing right now. Anyone with an interest in multimedia storytelling and unconventional theater should give it a look. Many thanks to New Georges for continuing to support such risk taking with the Germ Project.