‘The Passion of Persephone’
Friday, July 25 @ 6 PM
Saturday, July 26 @ 11 PM
They say: "Hades has captured the Goddess Persephone and tied her up to keep her from leaving the Underworld. When her mother Demeter discovers why Zeus won't rescue Persephone, Demeter wreaks a terrible vengeance . . . Greek myth updated to modern times: A work-in-progress, presenting the last two scenes of Act I."
Suzyn's take: As the blurb notes, Passion of Persephone is still a work in progress, so perhaps it's appropriate that it has the feel of something that's still deciding what it wants to be. The advertising materials play up the S+M focus, suggesting those mediocre Anne Rice S+M novels about Sleeping Beauty. There's some of that in this show, which is also a rock opera, and at times there is a bit of winking farce.
Primarily, however, the show seems to exist as a vehicle for the leading lady/librettist/composer/instrumentalist/producer Rosanna E. Tufts. Tufts plays Persephone, and is at the center of the show. Tufts' performance showcases her voice, which is indeed very good. That said, her acting leaves something to be desired. She has little chemistry with Hades and they frequently sing about how attracted they are to each other, yet have bored-looking expressions while doing so. At one point Persephone sings about Hades when he's offstage and she achieves a quiet fire in that scene that was absent when Hades was actually there. It is as if she finds the idea of Hades more striking than the reality, which in a sense is the most accurate part of Tufts' portrayal of a naive young woman in love. Also, Tufts is a bit past the maiden stage. A male friend of mine described her as the "MILFiest Persephone I've ever seen."
The music is fine, though the songs sound very much alike. I found myself wishing a little bit more had been done with the direction. The lights could have gone down a bit as Demeter sings about the sun fading, for example. Also, there's a lot of standing in this opera. Some of that is because they have a large cast in a small venue, but even when individuals are on stage alone, the actors don't move around much. A notable exception is Sara Stewart, whose Demeter moves very naturally. Stewart chewed the scenery in a satisfying way that suited her character, particularly after she took off a large goofy hat that obscured her face for much of her first scene on stage. Her voice was impressive as well, and I will look for her in future shows.
Michelle Mullany, Lily Fay Tufts Prothuro and Ayana Fenton do an excellent job as the dead children in the underworld, singing with charmingly sweet voices and appearing convincingly dour.
Again, the show is a work in progress. I suspect a lot of the problems will be ironed out by the time it is a full length show. I saw it with three friends and two of us were interested in coming back when the show is performed in full. Still, like Persephone's Hades, right now this show is a lot better in theory than it is in reality.
See it if: You're into Greek Drama, Rock Opera or the combination of the two, which works surprisingly well.
Skip it if: "Dick Cheney" is your safe word. The show takes itself a little too seriously for that.