To the Fairest

I must admit I’ve never been particularly taken with ancient Greek theater. I’ve seen everyone from anonymous high schoolers to Vanessa Redgrave attempting it and I’ve always found it to be plodding and dull. Not the case with Paris. Company XIV uses movement, burlesque, pop opera, instrumental interlude and stage magic to tell their version of The Judgement of Paris. They use the eponymous character’s name as a direction for the flavor of the production and as such their rendition of Greek mythology includes the can-can, champagne table service, and a mustachioed Zeus (Charlotte Bydwell) with a thick French accent.

Beloved among the citizens of Olympia for his fairness in judgement, Paris (Jakob Karr) is plucked from his simple life of herding a gang of giddy, highly sexualized sheep and asked to determine who among the gods is the fairest. Athena (Marcy Richardson), Juno (Randall Scotting) and Venus (Storm Marrero) are all given a chance to sway his favor. The story, however, takes a backseat to the cast displaying their many talents. Mr. Karr is not just an excellent dancer but a talented comedic actor whose facial expressions buoy some of the more static arrangements. Ms. Bydwell makes for a charming hermaphroditic host, half Zeus, half reluctant performer named Fifi. But the highlight is undoubtedly Ms. Richardson as Athena, who sings countertenor while swinging upside down on a stripper pole mounted atop a carousel. How Paris ends up choosing Venus over her after such a display of inverted operatics is beyond me.

Paris maintains a steady balance of crude and classy. Mythology and baroque music share the stage with sodomy sight gags. While nipples are tastefully concealed, a penis makes a brief but brazen appearance center stage. Nothing is either too serious or overly risqué and it’s fun enough to make a someone indifferent to ancient Greek theater content.

Paris runs through November 12th at The Irondale Theatre.  85 S. Oxford Street  Brooklyn, NY.  2 hours.  Two intermissions.

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Ben Botwick

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