A fine creative team works to reimagine a myth, its own play, and love itself
Reviewed by Avimaan Syam, Fri., July 2, 2010
Blue Theatre, 916 Springdale, www.bluetheatre.org
Through July 17 Running time: 1 hr., 35 min.
One of my favorite novels, The Satanic Verses, begins with the line "To be born again, first you have to die." There is both a cyclical nature to Salman Rushdie's words and a mark of finality as well – death is the threshold between lives, the continuity of endless lives marked by departing one life and entering another. These concepts of time, renewal, death, and loss play deeply in re:Psyche. So too does Eros, god of desire, flicker endlessly into one soul's life and then the next. He and his wife must grapple with the hard, uncompromising line between mortality and immortality. So too must the Greek gods deal with an ever-widening chasm between present day and the time of their influence. Time – and life, too, it appears – is fleeting.
re:Psyche is actually the third iteration of The Psyche Project, which first saw the stage in the David Mark Cohen New Works Festival at the University of Texas' Department of Theatre & Dance last spring before garnering a fall production in the department for being voted "Best in Fest." This summer remount, however, does not constitute the same old story. The Psyche team has continued to enhance, change, and splice up its work in an effort to fully explore the myth of Eros and Psyche, as well as the play.
The myth of Eros and Psyche, boiled down, roughly comes to this: Eros has been instructed by his jealous mother, Aphrodite, to make the gorgeous mortal Psyche fall in love with a monster. Eros accidentally incites himself to fall in love with Psyche. Eros marries her but keeps it a secret even to Psyche, who must wear a blindfold when she's with him, lest all be revealed and his mother's rage come down on him. Psyche eventually succumbs to temptation (never a good idea), removes the blindfold, and sees Eros. He runs away, betrayed. Psyche, in love, follows, and seeks help from Aphrodite, who torments Psyche to labor for her love. Psyche dies. Zeus gives her immortality, and she and Eros live forever.
The creative team for re:Psyche is not afraid to play mash-up with the mythos of the Greeks, and I can assure you the plot does not go as expected. The text itself is a modernization of the myth, à la Charles Mee, shifting between the weight and conceits of the ancient story and 21st century touches such as Wii tennis, Dos Equis, and time-shares in Tampa. Although the script makes too many metatextual winks to the audience, it's an enjoyable combination of story conventions past and present.
Without having been privy to the prior versions, I can't speak to all of the changes in this production of The Psyche Project. Even so, one significant addition here is music from one of Austin's hottest new bands, Mother Falcon. The musical interludes they provided for scenes without dialogue were the most captivating moments of the production, with the actors needing only their bodies to tell the story.
Truly, with a story of such grandeur and epic scope, it was a bit puzzling to see the play placed in the sparse black box of the Blue Theatre, with minimal attention or funds seeming to be paid toward costumes or set pieces. But the further into the production we wandered – as sheets fluttered about the stage or a wonderful shadow-puppet scene was concocted – the more I came around to the black box being the perfect setting for re:Psyche. It is a project, after all – one that challenges itself, its creators, and the fine cast of UT Master of Fine Arts graduates to constantly reimagine the play, the myth, and love itself.