Sunday, January 23, 2011

Gilgamesh on Stage

The earliest epic is now on stage at Bushwick Starr Theater in Brooklyn, NY:

The wooden staircase you climb to get to the Bushwick Starr theater has more character than some entire plays. You're rewarded for the climb—through January 30, anyway—with a strenuous, rewarding journey through the ancient Sumerian-Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest works of literature in history. Sumerian legends told of a semi-divine hero-king, Gilgamesh, who tyrannized his subjects in the city of Uruk until they pleaded with the gods for help. In response they created Enkidu, a primitive man of great strength who lived in the forest with the beasts until being seduced by a temple harlot into coming to Uruk to be a companion to Gilgamesh.

A different actor plays Gilgamesh in each "tablet," all ably, while Enkidu remains in the sure hands of the very physical actor who goes by the name of Eugene the Poogene. Cherrye J. Davis is notably authoritative as the jealous goddess Ishtar, and KT Peterson has a fabulous time with the role of Shamhat the temple priestess/prostitute. But the whole ensemble is strong, and despite Eugene's frequent key presence and consistent physicality—he even switches to another role late in the proceedings—and the numerous scenes with just a couple of characters, the whole thing has the flow of an ensemble piece.

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