Psyche: A Modern Rock Opera
Reviewed by Pauline Adamek
Greenway Arts Alliance
Through Sept. 28.
The ancient Greek myth of the challenged romance between Psyche and Eros is the well from which sprang numerous Princess-themed fairytales: Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast — even echoes of the Pandora, Eurydice and Hercules myths can be detected in this early story of passion, jealousy, betrayal and redemption.
A god becomes enamored with a beautiful mortal, much to the chagrin of his possessive mother who sets up various tests to thwart their romance.
Creator Cindy Shapiro has fashioned a vibrant and exciting rock-opera from this richly romantic source material, investing her book, music and lyrics with a magical blend of timeless antiquity combined with the contemporary. Pounding drums and haunting electric guitar riffs are underscored by mournful cello and sweet strains of violins. What the songs may lack in musical variation is well compensated for, by dynamic tunes and matched by energetic dance routines.
Janet Roston’s superb choreography is fluid and, at times, percussive –such as when it occasionally incorporates claps and fleshy slaps into the cast’s movement. Some of the chorus members (singers and dancers) even glide into “tissue”-silk hammocks for some acrobatic gestures while our heroes occasionally ascend a two-level trapeze swing. A highlight is the exuberant undulating waves of movement when Eros falls in love.
Stephen Gifford’s bi-level scenic design of mesh, cliffs and columns, thickly draped with vines, transports us to a gloomy netherworld and fantastical dreamscape. E. B. Brooks’ costumes also reflect the pleasing duality of the production, combining contemporary garments with flowing and bejeweled Grecian-style dresses. Eros’ leather wings are especially well devised by Matt Jones.
All these elements come together seemingly effortlessly under Michael Matthews’s expert direction. The result is a thrilling post-modern rock musical that is as edgy as it is beautiful.
Ashley Ruth Jones is wonderful as Psyche, beautifully conveying her fragility even while belting out her vocally demanding songs. With his commanding yet tender sexuality, Michael Starr is also good as Eros. Laura L. Thomas brings a swaggering arrogance to her role as Aphrodite but at times her singing is piercing and unpleasantly shrill. Playing Psyche’s bitchy, troublemaking sisters, Benai Boyd and Cindy Sciacca have a lot of fun with their comic relief roles. Neil Taffe is a standout within the excellent chorus of eight when he brings forth his booming baritone as the formidable Zeus.
Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., LA; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Sept. 28. (323) 655-7679, Ext. 100, psycherockopera.com