note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Sheila Barth
“Prometheus Bound” isn’t a stage show. It’s an 80-minute, one-act, all-encompassing experience that assails its audience from every aspect, every angle, creating an interactive, emotional experience that ends with fervent hope.
It’s a cry against tyranny, cruelty and political corruptness, with hope that our heroes who battle against such crimes against humanity aren’t standing alone, enduring imprisonment, torture, and martyrdom. Although the play originated 2,500 years ago, it remains a battle cry that stabs at our conscience more than ever, especially during these revolutionary times.
In this rock musical that’s based on Aeschylus’ ancient mythical play currently appearing through April 2 at Oberon, American Repertory Theater (ART)-Oberon Artistic Director Diane Paulus has teamed up with Amnesty International in the Prometheus Project, to inform audiences about current international cases of people trying to combat despotism, who are currently imprisoned and tortured because of it. Instead of seeking monetary donations, the groups ask patrons to sign postcards to free activists from prison whose sole crime is speaking against inhumane political practices.
There are eight Amnesty appeals. Last week’s highlights the case of filmmaker Jafar Panahi, imprisoned in Iran for six years, and sentenced with a 20-year ban on all of his creative activities, including traveling abroad and speaking with media. He was accused of making an anti-government film without permission and inciting opposition protests after the disputed 2009 presidential election.
To ensure they captivate audiences, “Prometheus Bound’s” performers are everywhere, surrounding patrons in a multi-level net, as they climb above, behind, and alongside seated and standing theatergoers. They jump on tables, float away on nearby movable ladders or on crew members’ shoulders, weaving among the grooving crowd. Handsome hero, Prometheus is suspended from a chain, floating on a rotating round table among bystanders.
Choke & Jerk, the eight-piece Prometheus Bound band, pulsates composer Serj Tankian’s music, while designer Kevin Adams’ rotating, colorful lights punctuate Steven Sater’s rousing dialog and lyrics.
The plot revolves around Prometheus, a Titan, who helped Zeus overthrow his own leader, Kronos, then befriended humans and gave them the gift of fire, angering Zeus. Aware that Prometheus attempts to thwart his plan to obliterate the human race, an unseen Zeus orders his evil leather-jacketed thugs, Force and Strength, (Michael Cunio and bombastic Lea DeLaria) to suppress and torture Prometheus, which they do with relish.
Gavin Creel is riveting as Prometheus, the Titan god of Foresight. Bare-chested and bound with heavy chains, he is lifted, suspended, zapped, beaten, hurled aloft, refusing to relent to his cackling oppressors. He is comforted by three winged “daughters of the Aether,” (Jo Lampert, Celina Carvajal, Ashley Flanagan), garbed in diaphanous slips and black combat boots, who sing sweetly to him, supporting him, during several numbers. Lanky Gabe Ebert, double-cast as Oceanos and Hermes, adds levity and irony, cajoling Prometheus, especially in “Nothing Like a Tyrant’s Gratitude”.
Prometheus meets and predicts the future of tormented human Io, whom Zeus raped and turned into a cow that’s constantly bitten by a gadfly. Uzo Aduba is a commanding force, especially during her heart-rending solos, “The Hunger,” and “What I Think of Myself,” accompanied by the Aethers; and DeLaria brings the house down with her throaty scatting.
BOX INFO: One-act, 80-minute rock musical, book, lyrics by Steven Sater, composed by Serj Tankian; appearing through April 2 at Oberon, 2 Arrow St., Cambridge. Tickets begin at $25; student rush, $15; senior discount, $5 off; group rates available. Performances are generally at 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; Fridays, 7:30 and 10 p.m., also Saturday, April 2. Tickets begin at $25; Charge to American Express, Visa or MasterCard; group rates available. Call 617-547-8300. For more information, visit www.AmericanRepertoryTheater.org. Check also for related events involving Amnesty International cases at www.americanrepertorytheater.org/amnesty.