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Greek Treats

A generation ago, English teachers were given to defining tragic heroes or heroines as persons of high position whose flaws accounted for their fall. Modern persons, though they might derive great power from representing everyman, were not considered the stuff from which tragedy is made. Today, such archaic notions of tragedy are thankfully passť, and nowhere is the comparison of classic tragedy and modern tragedy more hilariously represented than in Germinal Stage Denver's current production of two delightful one-acts, A.R. Gurney's The Golden Fleece and Stanley Taikeff's Ah, Eurydice, packaged together as Greek Treats.

Photo of Sallie Diamond as Betty and Ed Baierlein as Bill.
Sallie Diamond as Betty and
Ed Baierlein as Bill
As he has on several occasions, director Ed Baierlein cross-hatches two plays with related themes to produce marvelous, unexpected results. Gurney's piece centers around Bill and Betty, an average middle-aged couple, who are friends with Jason and Medea of The Golden Fleece fame. During the course of the evening, as Jason and Medea's relationship unravels, Bill's and Betty's congeniality disintegrates while they each end up defending their counterpart in the mythical relationship that, consistent with the goriest aspects of Greek tragedy, never appears on stage.

Baierlein and his own counterpart, Sallie Diamond, are at their irreverent best as Bill and Betty, right at home throwing typical, half-thought out male and female points of view in each other's face.

Interspersed throughout these proceedings is a performance by The Golden Bough Improv Troupe that Bill and Betty had engaged to entertain their guests, Jason and Medea. The troupe, which performs Taikeff's Ah, Eurydice in-between Bill and Betty's interpersonal emergencies, turns out to be comprised of Orpheus and Eurydice from Yonkers, New York, who are stuck in the ancient mythological loop of their namesakes, only this time Eurydice has died on her wedding day, choking on a chicken bone, and Orpheus mesmerizes the God of the underworld, Pluto, with his kazoo.

Paul Caouette is elegant and erudite as the master of Hades, patiently explaining to Orpheus the rules of the game. Eric Field is a crack-up as the earnest schlep with the kazoo and a voice even flatter than Harry Connick, Jr's. Suzanna Wellens is his equally wacky dreamboat, parading around Hades in her wedding dress with a head full of spoon-fed mass culture dreams. Her monologue in which she lays bear her vision of their perfect life together brings the house down.

Given a society so utterly dominated by instant gratification and the mindless pap of so-called news and information promulgated by a small group of multinational corporations, wherein Shakespeare is seen as a collection of cliches, operas sell soap, and classical music is from the '60's, Germinal Stage Denver's Greek Treats is a refreshing reminder of how accessible the great tragedies of antiquity could be if only we turned off the TV long enough to go to the theatre and challenged ourselves. It runs through July 7th. 303-455-7108.

Bob Bows

 

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