Odysseus, as the legend goes, went off to war for ten years and spent another ten trying to get back. Meanwhile 100 suitors camped out, attempting in various ways to woo his wife. Meet some of these men in the Rumble Production of Penelope currently on stage at The Cultch.
In Edna Walsh’s absurd and highly literate take, there are four men left hanging out in Penelope’s drained swimming pool. A fifth has recently been killed and as the play opens, Burns (played with an appealing quiet sturdy earnestness by Kyle Jesperson) is attempting to scrub the blood off.
The one act play ruminates on life and love in a very Beckett or Ionesco kind of language. Periodically the silent and beautiful Penelope (Lindsay Winch) activates a large spotlight on a chosen man, who pontificates desperately while she watches on a big screen television.
In addition to the quiet earnestness of Jesperson, there is a twisty and delighted Dunne (a funny Sean Devine) bringing humour and crass to the dour situation. There is the older Fitz quietly sitting reading a book waiting his turn played by Patrick Keating, desperate but without expectation. The final man is the bully Quinn played with cruel bluster by Alex Lazaridis Ferguson.
The production is gorgeous; Drew Facey’s decrepit pool with it raised lounge area for Penelope is wondrously detailed. The men are all clothed in Speedos, which while appreciated, adds a sense of absurdity since the pool contains now water.
There are some wicked ‘prophecy’ effects and the sense of futility of love for the non-hero is as sad as it is funny. These four guys are not Odysseus marching off to war, they are just churlish men who want to get laid. They posture and tease and play status games with each other.
Theatre of the Absurd is not to everyone’s taste and this intelligent and densely worded play will not be for everyone. And while my companion and I both admitted to nodding off early on, lovers of language and intelligent musings on life and companionship may get a lot from the experience. If you like men in Speedos, so much the better.
By Enda Walsh. Directed by Stephen Drover. A Rumble Theatre and Vancouver East Cultural Centre presentation. On stage at The Cultch through October 13, 2013. Visit http://rumble.org for tickets and information.