A Tragedy of Epic Proportions

JUSTIN EILER | PHOTO COURTESY
Maggie Zentner (left) and Dan Ajak (right) play Penelope and Odysseus, respectively, in Theatre NDSU’s production of ‘The Odyssey,’ adapted by Mary Zimmerman.

Last week, Theatre NDSU debuted their performance of “The Odyssey,” directed by Kara Jeffers and Chelsea Pace, as part of the Mary Zimmerman Festival in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

The cast and crew produced a very fine show, with several strong performances during the two-hour run time.

The show started off strongly with an incomparable set. The stage was colored in hues of blue and greens, with geometric props asymmetrically set in front of the audience. Long curtains draped at several points across the stage, creating a boundary setting apart backstage while giving a lot of creative options for entrances, exits and dramatic moments.

Furthermore, the stage was expanded into the audience, giving the actors more room to express themselves.

NDSU’s performance of “The Odyssey” fulfilled expectations as a “streamlined” telling of the classic story written by Homer and translated by Robert Fitzgerald. Many confusing details and characters were portrayed in a way that made them less confusing, helping the audience understand the 20-year journey of a father. However, those without a prior understanding of the story might still be confounded by seemingly unrelated bits of the story.

Throughout the show, the bouts of humor and contemporary music were what kept the show moving during the long runtime. Hermes and Poseidon were the two funniest characters, with their over-the-top performances complimenting the seriousness of Odysseus and Athena.

One interesting thing the show utilized was voice changing technology to bring some of the beasts to life. While some of the enunciation could have been a bit better so the poetic words could be heard more clearly, the creative leap was a delight to experience.

The highlights of the show included the sirens “singing” in unison, two perfectly executed fights and a quiet soliloquy by the lone protagonist. The sirens, an interconnected gaggle of girls, absolutely commanded attention with their piercing looks and mood swings, ironically giving the show life while trying to bring death upon the sailors. The fight scenes were fantastic, rivaling any action movie produced in the last decade. All the actors were in sync during the loud scenes, keeping the audience on the edge of their seat with live action barreling in front of them.

Finally, another stand out moment involved a lone Odysseus on a darkened stage while the drapes slowly swayed behind him. It gave the audience a chance to see the man without all the flare; a quiet moment set apart from the action scenes to give some weight to the show.

Odysseus and Athena, the stars of the show, both had strong performances to be proud of.

Dan Ajak, as Odysseus, was very believable as a hero braving multiple challenges to return those he loves. Odysseus’ emotions were quite apparent as the show progressed.

Marissa Koppy, as Athena, was intense and eloquent as a narrator. Her performance as the goddess of wisdom kept the show moving while providing much-needed information.

No show is perfect, but nevertheless, “The Odyssey” was a good telling of a grand adventure, blending classical epic adventure with a modern flare. Every student should see this show to experience dramatic personal moments and hilarious jokes right before seeing a jaw-dropping slaughter.

As we head into dead and finals week, this show is a good reminder that it could always be worse. The final shows for “The Odyssey” are at 7:30 p.m. on May 4, 5 and 6. Tickets are free for students with their ID.

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