Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Review: (Vancouver) Eternal Hydra

John Murphy and Laara Sadiq (photo credit: Tim Matheson)

Feats of Literature
by David C. Jones
In Greek mythology the Lernaean Hydra is a many-headed beast. Cut off a head and two more grow in its place. Fictional fiction writer, the fantastically named Gordias Carbuncle was creating an opus entitled Eternal Hydra, 100 different stories about people whose voices were silenced by others. The book was being written in the 1930’s and before it could be published it was thought lost forever. That is before academic Vivian Ezra found the manuscript in a box of old papers and decided to take the book to publisher Randall Wellington whose father was going to publish it all those years ago. Randall decides to take it on by tying it in with another book written by Black history writer Pauline Newberry whose new work speaks about Gordias Carbuncle.
But just as voices can be silenced and history can be re-written, beliefs can be challenged and hopes dashed. This is a literary mystery that in Touchstone's production of Anton Piatigorsky's Eternal Hydra, like a many-headed hydra wraps around itself again and again. Vivian speaks to the spirit of Gordias and we step back and forth between reality, dreams, written stories and true history. Why was the book never published and was Gordias a charlatan or a literary genius?
The diverse cast each played two or more roles - nuanced and heartfelt. John Murphy, as the self-destructive and manipulative writer, was charming when needy and snot-filled rage when left alone. It was a compelling performance. The wonderful Laara Sadiq brought a tear when her forthright drive lead to some shattered illusions – you could hear her heart break. Cherissa Richards was all urban sophistication as the writer and warily hopeful as the turn of the century black shoemaker. The always-solid Andrew Wheeler doesn’t bring a lot of variance to the three different roles he plays but each is grounded and alert.

The production looks great. David Roberts austere blond wood walls and benches contain panels that pop open revealing props to set mood and place. Farnaz Khaki-Sadigh creates some lovely modern fashions that can quickly transform into period garb. Owen Belton’s sound design and Adrian Muir’s lighting were equally handsome and crisp.
Director Katrina Dunn does a lovely job with Piatigorsky’s densely plotted story. At times the script felt over-complicated and a little staid and like the set slick and clever but not necessarily warm and inviting. Under Ms Dunn’s direction the actors bring heart and life to this literate tale.
A couple of reviews ago I suggested a show would require wearing your ‘silly pants’. When attending Eternal Hydra you may want to wear your thinking cap.

1 comment:

  1. Right on, David. I saw it, too. The acting was solid, though I felt the piece was too long. It did weave together beautifully in the end, yet I was left feeling a little hanging that they didn't return to present time, our "home" characters.


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