Males go off to conflict. Girls wait. A minimum of that is the way in which it was performed in eighth Century BCE Greece when Homer first composed “The Odyssey.” What will we learn about these girls who wait? Valuable little. And that’s one thing that Hudson Valley Shakespeare Pageant’s latest manufacturing, “Penelope,” strives to rectify. The world premiere of this new musical theater piece happened on September 3, and the present is at present operating by means of September 17 below the competition tent in Garrison.
“Penelope,” with music and lyrics by Alex Bechtel, and e book by Alex Bechtel, Grace McLean, and Eva Steinmetz, is a artistic re-imaging of the Odysseus story, as informed from the angle of the long-suffering spouse. Served up as a one-woman musical starring Tatiana Wechsler, backed by a five-piece ensemble, Steinmetz, who additionally directs, shifts the main focus from the lads of motion (or possibly it’s inaction?) to the girl central to all of it—Penelope.
The story: The Trojan Warfare has ended after 10 years, and but an additional 10 years have handed and nonetheless Odysseus has not returned house. This gradual, relentless, passage of time is cleverly demonstrated as Penelope takes the stage, alone, and intones a litany of phrases that drop just like the ticking of a clock, accompanied by easy chords performed on piano by Wechsler. One after the other, the remainder of the musicians be a part of her on stage, as Penelope leaves the piano, and begins her deliberate revolution across the gamers’ area, an oversize bass drum pulsing a gradual heartbeat because the lighting reveals a breaking daybreak. Clearly, an eon of dawns have come and gone as Penelope muses, “I might look ahead to you without end, in case you informed me what without end was for.”
Within the second musical quantity, the temper shifts and takes on a extra self-aware, tongue-in-cheek strategy as Penelope pours herself a scotch, and will get all the way down to “some tasteful exposition.” She offers us the entire backstory of Helen, the Trojan Warfare, and what it was like for her being a younger spouse and new mom, and discovering herself deserted by her husband. For. Twenty. Years. The track has a “Girls Who Lunch” Sondheim vibe—“He’s Odysseus; she’s Penelope. Drink!”—which lets us know we’re going to be taking a look at this complete affair by means of a contemporary lens.
Every track, as we progress by means of the present, evokes a special style from Motown to jazz to folks rock—a pleasant melange, delivered by wonderful musicians who seize the flavour of every track with delicate nuance and talent. We get a number of extra songs of her “what if-ing?” We get a comical interplay between her and the goddess Athena, whose repetitive invocation, “Penelope, spouse of mighty Odysseus,” lastly has Wechsler blurting out, “Penelope! Penelope is sufficient!” There’s a track about an imaginary stranger and a romantic interlude the place she sings, “Be sort to me—Penelope,” and we perceive that she isn’t solely imploring because the mysterious lover, however talking as herself to herself.
Penelope offers us the filth on the suitors who’ve arrange store in her house, ready for her to decide on one in every of them to be her new husband. Monsters, she calls them, and describes all their undesirable traits. She holds them off with the reason that she should first end her weaving, after which tells the viewers that she weaves all day, after which unravels all of it at evening. She speaks about how she will be able to create no matter she desires within the sanctuary of her bed room the place she sits at her loom, alone, day after day. “I can weave no matter I need. Go wherever I need, so long as I by no means end. So long as I all the time come again.”
And right here is the place we come to know Penelope just a little higher. She is trapped by futility. She desires of an journey, however she will be able to by no means go away. She has been outlined as a spouse, but she has no husband. And most significantly, she’s probably not positive who she is, or what she desires, however she is aware of she desires one thing extra. Wechsler humanizes what, within the authentic supply materials, is a considerably one-dimensional character. Her portrayal and nonverbal efficiency decisions present us how Penelope has grown from a younger lady who waits, with no company, for issues to occur round her, to a assured and forceful lady on the verge of recognizing her precise energy, able to take motion. Wechsler reveals us why Penelope dares to change into extra herself, and fewer “Odysseus’s spouse.”
We all know that Odysseus ultimately returns. What we don’t know is whether or not our Penelope has grown and altered sufficient to satisfy him as that highly effective lady who has discovered her voice, or if she is going to greet the returning hero because the meek bride he left behind. That is what’s thrilling about this present. Every musical quantity holds us on the tense precipice of Penelope’s “what ifs?” and till the ultimate be aware, we’re undecided if her resolve will maintain.
“Penelope” can be carried out by means of September17. Reveals every day, besides Monday, at 7pm. Saturday and Sunday matinee at 2pm. Hudson Valley Shakespeare Pageant is positioned at 2015 Route 9 in Garrison. The present’s run time is 75 minutes with no intermission.