Saturday, March 26, 2011

"Prometheus Bound” is simply incredible

Prometheus Bound

Script and lyrics by
Steven Sater (from the play by Aeschylus)

Music composed by
Serj Tankian

Directed by
Diane Paulus

Stephen Petronio

Set Design
Riccardo Hernandez

Costume Design
Emily Rebholz

Lighting Design
Kevin Adams

Serj Tankian

Gavin Creel*

Lea DeLaria*

Michael Cunio*

Gabriel Ebert*

Daughter of the Aether
Jo Lampert*

Daughter of the Aether
Celina Carvajal*

Daughter of the Aether
Ashley Flanagan*

Uzo Aduba*

(*) members of Actors Equity Association

Emmanuel Avellanet
Kevin Lin
Bart Mather

I don’t really go out much to see the ART shows, but when I saw the posters for “Prometheus Bound” I was immediately intrigued. I wasn’t too familiar with the original Greek play by Aeschylus so when I saw it was translated and made into a rock musical, how could I resist? The show itself was being presented at the Oberon Club, where The Donkey Show was playing its extended run. I had been the Oberon before, but when I walked in and saw we’d be standing and watching the show, it felt like I was about to see a rock concert. Another added bonus was the fact the book was written Steven Sater, known for his work on the musical Spring Awakening. The music was composed by Serj Tankian, the man best known for his amazing work as the lead singer for System of a Down.

Prometheus Bound was based on the Greek play that told the story of a Titan, Prometheus, who had stolen fire from the gods in order to give it to mankind. In addition, he gave them the power of knowledge as well, much to the chagrin of the new king of the Gods, Zeus. Before all of this occurred, Prometheus and a few others sided with Zeus and the new Gods to overthrow this previous rule, establishing himself as an advisor and friend in this new kingdom. However, after delivering the power of these new gifts to mankind, Zeus ordered him to be chained and bound. He would remain so for all eternity, and to top it off, have his liver ripped out every day by birds only to have it grow back, repeating this daily torture. Despite his punishment and the pleading of others, Prometheus refuses to give in and apologize for his actions, truly believing in his cause.

Where do I begin with this show? Everything about this production blew me away. Immediately when the show starts, the opening number sung by the cast, "The Hounds of Law" sets the tone with pulsating rocking sounds that echoed through the club and through the audience. It was amazing. The cast’s voices blended so well and I was immediately hooked. I immediately starting a bit of light head banging myself, moving with this amazing score. The music was a bit of a departure (not by much) from System of A Down’s work, but you could still hear slight similarities, with waling guitar riffs and synthy tones. For every rocking number, there were sweeter and softer powerful songs such as "The Hunger", a beautiful number sung by Io, a woman who had been pursued by Zeus, and the chorus like Daughters of Aether, creating this hauntingly beautiful atmosphere throughout. I was practically in tears as they sang this telling tune. The music and lyrics for this show were so well crafted and there was so much variation. No song was like the other and I truly enjoyed every bit of it. It was hard to pick a favorite.

As for the cast, each played their parts magnificently. Gavin Kreel, a man who is basically a super rock star, wails and resonates as Prometheus. In a few words? He brings down the house. He spends the majority of the show bound and chained, and we feel his angst as he is brought forth in the middle of the audience. We are seeing him in such pain, but he never lets up on his fortitude. His voice is fantastic and he delivers a raw and powerful performance. Lea Delaria plays Force, a demigod who is sadistic and charismatic all in one, which she plays incredibly well. She is enjoying herself and has a wondrous voice. Who knew it was so good to be bad? During one number she scats like no other, which immediately caused my mind to be blown. Uzo Aduba plays Io, beautifully creating a lost yet unshaken soul who has a touching moment with Prometheus. Her sadness brought tears the audience and her voice carries far and wide, filled with so many overwhelming emotions, including anger and pride. Hermes, the messenger God, is incredibly well played by Gabe Ebert. With snarkiness and smugness, he is having a blast, and he delivers his number in the latter part of the show with utter camp and sheer Puckish joy. Earlier in the show, he plays the smith God Hephaestus, but its his performance as Hermes that shows his true skill. Prometheus’ friend and fellow Titan, Oceanos, is played marvelously by Michael Cunio. His pleading and love for his friend to apologize for what hes done is captured so well in his voice his strong movements. Lastly, but not least, Jo Lampert, Celina Carvajal and Ashley Flanagan play the chorus like Daughters of Aether, dressed in angel wings, who each give strong performances individually and worked incredibly well as a unit. Their movements are eerily captivating and their interaction with Prometheus is heart wrenching. It is a sight to be held.

Diane Paulus’ direction is as expected: genius. Oberon is a large club, the kind of looks like an old factory. She creates a beautiful yet dark world and brings the audience in bit by bit. She utilizes nearly every nook and cranny of the space, causing the audience to look around, keeping us on our toes. She has the actors move through the space and with various set pieces. We become a part of the show, immersing us in the world of the Gods and Promethus’ struggle. It was a strong choice that paid off. She combined a rock concert, nightclub and theatrical experience all in one. It was fantastic.

The costumes designed by Emily Rebholz were simple enough, but they varied in styles, whether it was shirtless, lead singer Prometheus, 80s keytar player Hermes with metal helmet, or Forces' punk Goth rocker, she delivers. Each costume was crafted to fit each character’s personality, that I think worked very well. Along with the costumes, the lights and sets were also worth mentioning. Using the whole of the space including the balconies throughout and very little other than a few pieces brought in through the audience, the set included a stage that propped the loud and brash and super talented orchestra. (which included a sitar and upright bass. It was awesome. ) Also there were 3 metal ladders that were utilized heavily throughout, that created wonderful use of levels. As for the lights, they heightened emotion throughout, using a tremendous color palette. Specifically, there was a great use of green for one actor in part of the space. The lights flashed from green to a black out as he sung and pulsated throughout one number in the show. There were lights used for every emotion, which once again created the feel of a rock concert. Kevin Adams, lighting designer and Riccardo Hernandez, set designer knew how to contribute to this world that everyone had created.

I could go on and on about how wonderful this show was, but I feel I need to stop somewhere. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did, but I do enjoy being pleasantly surprised, and then some. This is show is something that can’t be missed. There was not a single dull moment and each aspect of this show contributed to one heck of an evening. “Prometheus Bound” delivers a strong message of standing up for whats right beneath its rocking score and ancient texts, while making us want to stand up to oppression, with fists raised, ready to fight.

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