Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Old men in Speedos: 3 reasons you have to see Penelope
Undermain Theatre has a reputation for being weird, and we approve.
DOWNTOWN DALLAS Theatre Jones' Mark Lowry calls Penelope the "first great production of 2013," but if you're otherwise unfamiliar with Enda Walsh's play, brace yourself. Bawdy, blood-lusty, and absurd, Walsh spares nothing when it comes to shock value. But, it is precisely those elements that propel the script's sheer linguistic poetry into realm of jaw-dropping confusion and disruption. If that's not reason enough for you to check out Undermain Theatre's production -- running through January 26 at City Performance Hall in the Dallas Arts District -- here are three reasons to mark this one a must-see while you still can:
1. Men behaving badly. Jumping off from Homer's The Odyssey, the play centers around four "alpha-male" characters vying to seduce Penelope, the faithful wife of the missing Odysseus, who has been lost at sea for two decades. The hopeful suitors are clad in little more than brightly-colored Speedos, and they half-nakedly toss food, curse at, and generally antagonize one another. There's even a bizarre montage in which one of the characters dresses as Jackie Kennedy, enacting JFK's assassination in an uncomfortably comedic way. Later, he's a frolicking cupid. It's weird, wild, and definitely not your average night at the theatre.
Funniest delivery: Bruce DuBose's Dunne scrambles up the set wall, slipping and sliding, frantically shouting, "You've reduced me, Penelope, to a fat man in a Speedo, for f**k's sake!"
2. When else will you get to be onstage at City Performing Hall? It's the first full-length play in the gorgeous new venue, and the set and seating area are all on the Hall's stage, creating a makeshift and intimate black box theatre within the venue's grand auditorium. This is the ideal excuse to venture down if you've not yet seen the breathtaking building, and the very reasonably-priced tickets -- $15 for weekday shows -- make doing so more affordable for those on a budget.
3. Enda Walsh is one to watch. The play was written by Tony Award winning Irish writer, Walsh, who was in-residence at SMU last fall after winning the Meadows Prize. Walsh earns every bit of his prestige. Penelope is simultaneously funny, unnerving, tragic, sickening, and uplifting. You will leave upset, feeling as though you have witnessed jarring truths about a Hobbsian humanity. But, that disruption is a testament to the immensely talented Walsh's craft and the profundity of what he has to say about the darkness of "masculinity."
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