In what the noted French playwright Jean Giraudoux playfully estimated as the 38th retelling of the classic Greek tale of Amphitryon, we are treated to a witty, philosophic discussion on the nature of truth in relationships between men, women, and the gods.
Giraudoux hints at the symbolic fluidity of his play by using the Roman names of the heavenly pantheon in conjunction with the original Greek mortals, thus universalizing the discourse before it begins.
Director Ed Baierlein opens the show with a flourish, presenting Jupiter and Mercury as a sideshow masque, the two figures painted on a board and represented in their mythological glory, in the clouds with thunderbolts and winged heels, their faces cut out so that Baierlein (Jupiter) and David Quinn (Mercury) can insert their own, as if for a-day-at-the-circus photograph.
|David Quinn as Mercury|
and Ed Baierlein as Jupiter
Jupiter has been eying the lovely earth woman Alkmena (Gina Wencel), wife of the Theban general, Amphitryon (Sam Gilstrap), as a vessel for his son, Hercules, to be born. Mercury waxes on the banality of sex on the material plane, but agrees to accede to Jupiter's desire and facilitate the tryst. The pair descend from the sky as two dapper, mustachioed gentlemen in costumer Sallie Diamond's jocular array of tweed, plaid, stripes, and two-toned shoes.
|Sam Gilstrap as Amphitryon|
and Gina Wenzel as Alkmena
With Amphitryon away to fight a war of Jupiter's creation, the G-d of gods is free to seduce Alkmena, but he is uncharacteristically stymied by her loyalty to her husband and her quick and clever mind. It will take the father of all Herculean efforts to resolve this one; luckily, that's who Jupiter is and he has a writer in Giraudoux who is suited to the task.
It's easy to see why this has been such a popular play through the ages. The set up is quick and leaves the door wide open for the broadest musings on love and war. Jupiter piques our interest by wondering whether Alkmena will be faithful to herself or her husband, but since he is omniscient, he already knows how to resolve this dilemma.
Giraudoux's wit and insights on bodies politic and corporeal are artfully delivered by host of distinctive characters. The dalliance between Baierlein and Wencel is rife with meaning on so many levels that we are left with no choice but to surrender to the moment and enjoy.
|Gina Wenzel as Alkmena|
and Suzanna Wellens as Lida
Quinn's Mercury is a high-energy bundle of incisive repartee and physical antics; Suzanna Wellens delivers a plum as the randy and rueful Lida, who has some unfinished business with Jupiter, after their famous encounter in which he visited her as a swan.
The male of the species is epitomized by Gilstrap's thoughtless devotion and lust for combat and glory, Mark K. Moran's droll Trumpeter, who heralds the drums of war, Dan Tchirhart's servile messenger, Sosie, an agent of state propaganda, and Paul M. Barner's bullet-headed Warrior, who calls upon the lowest instincts and oldest lies to marshal the poor, the rich, and the zealots for war.
|Dan Tchirhart as Sosie,|
Paul M. Barner as Warrior,
and Mark K. Moran as Trumpter
Giraudoux's sophisticated and engaging sense of humor sets the stage for a thoughtful take on an age-old story, offering a variety of original and challenging notions regarding our ability to forgive and forget.
Germinal Stage Denver's Amphitryon 38 runs through June 13th. 303-455-7108.