"If this piece doesn’t bring joy into your heart, then your heart is of stone. Must see." - Stage Press Weekly
Persephone is a collaborative work inspired by the Greco-Roman myth, featuring puppets, masks and music. This romantic comedy moves between the worlds of gods and goddesses, mortals and creatures. The myth is a creation story that explains the origin of seasons. On the earth, Demeter rules nature with her daughter, Persephone, while Zeus (in various puppet disguises) seduces mortal women. Demon puppets inhabit the underworld, ruled by their master, Hades. Hades abducts Persephone and hilarity ensues. Beneath the snappy dialogue and evocative visuals lie themes of transformation, grief, rebirth and nature’s cycles.
reviewed by Diana DeLaCruz
The first thoughts that entered my mind when the curtain went up on Messenger Theater's production of Persephone were striking and magical. The initial image of the simple stage set, consisting of organic wood and metal pieces and the beautiful costumes, take your breath away. The live musicians add a nice touch providing sound effects and musical score. This production incorporates hand-held puppets and masks to tell the enchanting story.
The Greco-Roman story of Persephone tells of the origin of the seasons. This theme is more of an afterthought in this piece, however, whose main focus is the longings and caprices of the various gods and goddesses which imitate those of mortals. Demeter, the goddess of nature, keeps a close watch on her lovely, young, bored daughter Persephone, who yearns for more excitement, for "something to happen." Meanwhile, the lonely and lovable Hades, lord of the Underworld, contemplates the empty feeling he often gets in the pit of his stomach and realizes that he is in need of companionship. He travels up to the earth and meets Persephone and offers to take her back with him to the Underworld, but she admonishes his approach and teaches him some lessons in wooing women. He accepts this advice and returns at a later time to woo her, this time succeeding in taking curious Persephone to the Underworld. In her grief and rage at finding her daughter missing, Demeter stops nature from growing and a winter envelops the earth. Demeter approaches Zeus, the insatiable god of all gods, but he is too busy fraternizing with a mortal woman to be bothered. Thanks to Demeter, though, the weather is too darn cold for frolicking, and so Zeus finally relents to Demeter's wish to have Persephone returned to earth. Meanwhile, Hades gives Persephone enchanted pomegranate seeds to eat which ensure that she will return to the Underworld for half the year.
The production playfully uses delightful puppets along with actors. Standouts include Matt Gordon as Zeus, John Capalbo as Hades, and Andy Neiman as Hermes. This boisterously entertaining production, directed by Emily Davis, does a great job of taking a classic tale and poking fun at some modern references you are sure to get. It speaks of the different types of love and how they're motivated, from fierce, maternal love to hopeful and despairing, all equally comprehendible. Themes of transformation, grief, and rebirth are also touched upon in this comedic romp. Persephone will be enjoyed by adults and children alike.
NYTheatre.com- - -August 19, 2002
The Greek mythological explanation for our four seasons is the basis for Messenger Theater Company's Persephone. On a whim the young maiden (Katrina Toshiko) allows herself to be whisked off to the underworld as bride of Hades (John Capalbo). Her inconsolable mother Demeter (Bethany Burgess-Smith) quickly neglected her duty to maintain balmy temperatures and abundant crops on earth. These changes soon became apparent, even to insensible Zeus (Matt Gordon), who finally provided that Persephone would spend six months on earth (spring and summer) and another six with Hades (fall and winter). Writer/director Emily Davis creatively uses bust-length rod puppets (Shannon Harvey) with stick arms for Hades's numerous comic helpers, all ably voiced and manipulated by puppeteers Courtney Cunningham and Jeff Grow. Mortals and gods cavort among spare but telling set elements (Mark Shieh, Anthony Ogg). Aside from Persephone, the mortals include a sprightly Orpheus (Brian Stockton) with his cool rock-serenade to melt Hades's heart and Amanda Melson as a superb quartet of Zeus's earthly lovers. Davis's witty writing and inventive staging turn a mite droll for the gods, all in masks, with the exception of supersonic Hermes (Andy Neiman). Perhaps the finest part of the show is Roxana Ramseur's two-toned silken costumes with an antique feel. At Harry De Jur Playhouse. 1 hour 45 minutes. [Lipfert]
And from our audience:
"Persephone" was a delightful romp--innovative, sweetly funny, sharp and enchanting! The cast, simple but fanciful sets and costumes, puppetry, and musical accompaniment all fit together with perfect balance--I can't think of anything I would change. Thanks for a wonderful afternoon! -- Kathryn Ritter
If Mary Zimmerman and Children’s Television Workshop had a brainchild.
- Ty Stover
"This production of Persephone is inventive, charmingandreally funny. A delight for all ages!"
- Leese Walker, ArtisticDirector StrikeAnywherePerformanceEnsemble
"Persephone is a revelation for everyone. The dialogue is capricious, accessible and often compelling. This play tangles up conventional opposites and finds new oppositions within the old myth. The gods are capricious and contradictory. It reminds us of (or introducesus to) a culture that lives on by the way it made its gods and heroes so often laughable. With handsome masks too!" - John Lawhead, ESL teacher, Bushwick High School
Persephone opened on April26th, 2002 at One Arm Red’sRedLAB in D.U.M.B.O., Brooklyn. It was then selected to be part of the NYCFringe Festival. Persephone opened for the second time at Henry Street Settlement’s Harry De Jur Playhouse on August 13th 2002.
Written and Directed by Emily Davis
Puppet and Mask Design by Shannon Harvey
Produced by Agathe David- Weill
Movement Work by BethanyBurgess-Smith
Costume Design by Roxana Ramseur
Lighting Design by Wendy Luedtke
Set design by Mark Shieh with Anthony Ogg
Music/SoundDesign by George Henik, Neil Strachan, AlexWang
Orpheus’ music by Vince Ricci, Brian Stockton
Original cast: John Capalbo, Courtney Cunningham, Matt Gordon, Jeff Grow, Amanda Melson, John Moffatt, Jocelyn Ruggiero, Brian Stockton and Katrina Toshiko.
Fringe Cast: Bethany Burgess-Smith, John Capalbo, Courtney Cunningham, Matt Gordon, Jeff Grow, Amanda Melson, Andy Neiman, Brian Stockton and Katrina Toshiko.