Cupid and Psyche
nytheatre.com review by Josephine Cashman
April 13, 2006
One cannot even begin to discuss The Themantics Group’s latest production, Cupid and Psyche, without first mentioning the glorious technical team. Michael Moore’s set is a delightful symphony of white, with a large gold frame at the back of the stage. The mortal world is confined by the frame, while the immortal world has all the space and unconstricted movement of center and downstage. Erin Elizabeth Murphy’s bright and colorful costumes offset the white netherworld of the gods, and the subtly powerful lighting design (especially the soft candle lights that hang from the ceiling, almost like stars) by Lucas Benjamin Krech really bring this mythological world to life. It is an impressive and astonishing achievement.
Aphrodite is suddenly feeling her age because a new rival has appeared on the scene; the mortal Psyche is so accidentally beautiful that Aphrodite dispatches her son Cupid (with whom she has a contentious relationship) to dispose of Psyche. Instead of killing her, however, Cupid becomes smitten with Psyche, and with the help of Apollo, spirits her away to be his bride, much to the dismay of Psyche’s jealous older sisters. Playwright Joseph Fisher retells the classic myth of Cupid and Psyche, and while the play is at times fun and engaging, it seems more to be an intellectual discourse about the nature of love and beauty rather than a timeless romance filled with action and a zest for life. The characters each bring their own specific point of view: Aphrodite sees love as power; Apollo as a intellectual war; Cupid as a boring job; Psyche as the ultimate journey; Runt (Cupid's friend and confidant) as a pragmatic adventure; and Psyche’s sisters, Maleen and Kris, see love as a prize to be stolen.
Johnny Sparks as Apollo and Nick Cearley as Runt stand out in the cast with their excellent command of language, and Jeannie Dalton as Maleen and Kim Schultz as Kris have a fine comic turn in Act Two. Sparks and Cearley play well off each other, and their interactions with Lanette Ware (Aphrodite) crackle with energy. Cupid, played by Jonathon Todd Ross, and Psyche played by Stephanie Janssen, are not nearly as strong. In fact, Ross spends most of the play shouting at Janssen, that it seems like he is not even talking to her, and as a result one can’t understand how Psyche would ever fall in love with such a bully. Their relationship never seems built on anything substantial.
Directed by Alex Lippard, the play is deftly staged, but most of the comedy seemed to miss its mark, and perhaps the pacing would have been quicker if the set changes were not so unnecessarily long. The monologues written by Fisher sometimes detract from the action of the story, and the need for mobile phones as a means of communication between the gods seemed out of place and incongruous. Nonetheless, the play is a fine attempt and I am eager to see The Themantics Group's next production.