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The Odyssey at Cloverdale Performing Arts Center


The Odyssey at Cloverdale Performing Arts Center

reviewed by Malena Eljumaily

If you are looking for an adventure in theater that takes you to places both exotic and unexpected, look no further than The Odyssey at the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center. Translating Homer's epic poem, a work of 24 books (written in dactylic hexameter, no less) to a 90 minute stage production would seem like a daunting endeavor, but Yave Guzman's multimedia version is more than equal to the task.

 Even if you think you don't know the story of Odysseus' long journey home from the Trojan War, you probably know some elements of it because they have become part of our culture, think Cyclops, Lotus-Eaters, Scylla and Charybdis.  The most famous episode, that of the Trojan Horse, takes place in The Iliad, the companion piece to The Odyssey, which is helpfully recapped at the start of the play by means of a slide show of narrative and images. From that point on, Odysseus tries to get back to Ithaca, while the gods and others, keep trying to thwart his efforts.

I want to acknowledge the ensemble cast- Allison Higginbotham, Ean Maya, Emily Striker, Jenna Cheli, Robert A. Rodriguez, Sarah Rose Lindell and Tory Rotlisberger- who manage to embody a multitude of characters each. They all give strong and convincing performances. Be warned that the actors play multiple roles and often female actors play male parts and vice versa. So, the part of Odysseus will be played by one actor in this scene, by another in the next. This was just a little confusing at first, but I soon caught on.

Ensemble-(sitting) Emily Stryker, (lying) Allison HigginbothamThe players sport Greek masks and matching costumes that hint at togas with drapes of cotton and tulle.  I wasn't so sure about the outfits at first, they seemed a bit shabby, but after I realized that these characters would hardly be dressed their best after waging war for years and years, and that the actors wearing them played every range of character from gods and goddesses to pigs, I grew to appreciate the neutrality and versatility of their costumes.

The set is an array of stone steps and ramps that cleverly serves as ships, seas, homes, landscapes and more. Projections show up on the rustic canvas screen at various intervals. That screen is especially effective when the backlit Cyclops rises up and roars from behind it. He seems all the more menacing for our only being able to see his imposing outline. There are no props in this play; necessary items are pantomimed by the actors, like the large wooden spike that takes three actors to lift and plunge into the eye of the Cyclops.

Ruben Guzman's evocative music, composed for this work, weaves in and out of the action adding tension and delight where needed. I was very impressed with how multidimensional this production was. It felt as ancient as it did modern. This is probably not a play to take the kiddies to. It's very complex and takes all your adult attention to appreciate. The Odyssey is one of those productions where the more I thought about it, the more I liked it.

Running March 11, 12, 18, 19 at 7:30pm, March 13 and 20 at 2pm.

TICKETS: $22 heneral - $12 Students

Cloverdale Performing Arts Center is located at 209 N. Cloverdale Blvd. in Cloverdale, CA in the northern portion of Sonoma County.

nsemble-(back row L-R) Emily Stryker, Jenna Cheli, Sarah Rose Lindell. (Front row L-R) Allisson Higginbotham, Ean Maya, Robert A. Rodriguez.