nytheatre.com review by Diana DeLaCruz
The first thoughts that entered my mind when the curtain went up on
Messenger Theater's production of Persephone were striking
and magical. The initial image of the simple stage set,
consisting of organic wood and metal pieces and the beautiful costumes,
take your breathe away. The live musicians add a nice touch providing
sound effects and musical score. This production incorporates hand-held
puppets and masks to tell the enchanting story.
August 15, 2002
The Greco-Roman story of Persephone tells of the origin of the seasons. This theme is more of an afterthought in this piece, however, whose main focus is the longings and caprices of the various gods and goddesses which imitate those of mortals. Demeter, the goddess of nature, keeps a close watch on her lovely, young, bored daughter Persephone, who yearns for more excitement, for "something to happen." Meanwhile, the lonely and lovable Hades, lord of the Underworld, contemplates the empty feeling he often gets in the pit of his stomach and realizes that he is in need of companionship. He travels up to the earth and meets Persephone and offers to take her back with him to the Underworld, but she admonishes his approach and teaches him some lessons in wooing women. He accepts this advice and returns at a later time to woo her, this time succeeding in taking curious Persephone to the Underworld. In her grief and rage at finding her daughter missing, Demeter stops nature from growing and a winter envelops the earth. Demeter approaches Zeus, the insatiable god of all gods, but he is too busy fraternizing with a mortal woman to be bothered. Thanks to Demeter, though, the weather is too darn cold for frolicking, and so Zeus finally relents to Demeter's wish to have Persephone returned to earth. Meanwhile, Hades gives Persephone enchanted pomegranate seeds to eat which ensure that she will return to the Underworld for half the year.
The production playfully uses delightful puppets along with actors. Standouts include Matt Gordon as Zeus, John Capalbo as Hades, and Andy Neiman as Hermes. This boisterously entertaining production, directed by Emily Davis, does a great job of taking a classic tale and poking fun at some modern references you are sure to get. It speaks of the different types of love and how they're motivated, from fierce, maternal love to hopeful and despairing, all equally comprehendible. Themes of transformation, grief, and rebirth are also touched upon in this comedic romp. Persephone will be enjoyed by adults and children alike.