UNION–The Department of Theatre at Kean University will present “The Odyssey” in Kean University’s Wilkins Theatre on Feb. 24 through March 1. Adapted by Mary Zimmerman from the translation of “The Odyssey” by Robert Fitzgerald, the play is based on the ancient Greek poem by Homer. With both irreverent humor and epic drama, the Kean production depicts the journey of Odysseus, whose journey encounters him with such mythical characters as Circe, Poseidon, Zeus, Hermes and the Sirens.
The original poem is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. It is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature. Composed near the end of the 8th century BC, the plot centers on Odysseus (or Ulysses, as he was known in Roman myths) and his ten year journey home after the fall of Troy. In his absence, it is assumed Odysseus has died, and his wife Penelope and son Telemachus must deal with a group of unruly suitors, (the Mnesteres or Proci), who compete for Penelope’s hand in marriage.
Comprised of 12,110 lines of didactic hexameter, “The Odyssey” continues to be read in the Homeric Greek and translated into modern languages around the world. Among the most impressive elements of the text are its non-linear plot, and the influence on events of choices made by women and serfs, besides the actions of fighting men. In the English language as well as many others, the word odyssey has come to refer to an epic voyage.
“The world’s first action hero, Odysseus, famously struggles across the ‘wine-dark sea’ to return home to his loving wife,” explains E. Teresa Choate, who co-directs the Kean production with Anna DeMers. “With some gods helping and others trying to stop him, Odysseus must battle beautiful immortals, such as Calypso, and terrifying monsters, such as the Cyclops.”
Mary Zimmerman’s dramatic adaptation begins with a modern young woman who is struggling, and failing, to understand the power of Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of “The Odyssey.” A classical muse appears, and the young woman is transformed into the goddess Athena—a tireless advocate for Odysseus in his endeavor to get home.
The cast features Steve Sharkey (of Washington, NJ) as Odysseus and Amber Adeleine (Garwood) as Athena. Andria Rogers (Cliffside Park) portrays Penelope and Steven Carter (Union) is Telemachus.
The ensemble includes Natalie Bailey (Edison) as Circe and Alcippe; Kyle Bergslien (Union) as a suitor, Demodocus and Elphenor; Camila Bermudez (Union) as a Siren, Phemios and Argos; Jeremy Brown (Union) as Poseidon and Cyclops; Anthony Crouchelli (New Milford) as Leodes and Seareach; Becca Dagnall (Piscataway) as the maid, a Siren and Eidothea); Rachelle Dorce (Maplewood) as Calypso, the Muse and a Siren; Lauren Eitzenberger (Union) in multiple roles; Brandon Elia (New Milford) as Eurymachus, Eurylochus and Hullman); Cara Ganski (Union) as Helen, Melantho and a Siren; Tony Mowatt (Union) as Antinous and Aeolus; Lucas Pinner (Union) as Hermes, Laodamasand Proteus; Jason Rader (Passaic) as Menelaus and a Mentor; Justin Reynolds (Elizabeth) as Eumaeus, Perimedes and Tiresias; Josh Schnetzer (Union) as King Alcinous and Neoman; Jalen Smith (Union) as Odysseus’ sailor; Jasmine Taylor (Union) as Queen Arete, a Siren and Charybdis); Carolyn Vicari (Union) as Eurycleia and Jason Wells, (Union) as Zeus).
Performances of The Odyssey are Feb. 24, 25, March 2, 3 at 8 p.m., Feb. 25, 26, March 3 at 2 p.m., March 1 at 5 p.m. The March 1 performance is followed by a question and answer session with the cast and creative team. All performances will be preceded 20 minutes before curtain by a “Homer Talks” a symposium of the world of the play conducted by the production dramaturg, Jason Gillis (Cranford).
Tickets to The Odyssey are $15 standard, $12 senior, $10 student or child and can be purchased by calling Kean Stage Box Office at 1-908-737-7469, online at www.keanstage.com, or in person at Kean University’s Wilkins Theater Box Office, located at 1000 Morris Avenue, Union.