Hot young theater companies Studio 42 and One Year Lease
have paired up to present a most modern look at the women behind the men of
the Trojan War. In NOTHING OF ORIGINS, some of the great women of
myth are interpreted with modern sensibilities, language and experiences,
juxtaposing the world of today against ancient times of lore, and finding
The ladies of legend portrayed in the ninety-minute
NOTHING OF ORIGINS include Helen, Cassandra, Penelope, and Clytemnestra,
and each exists as an archetype of various sorts of women (virgin, mother,
wife, whore, etc.). Most impressive is Devon Berkshire, as both Penelope’s
devoted maidservant, and especially as the misunderstood Helen (of Troy).
Depicted here as a pretty girl who was molded from birth to be the great
beauty she became, this Helen is the center of admiration, jealousy, gossip
and innuendo. Belittled by her peers, simply for what she is, her great
beauty is, ultimately, an inglorious fate. Jackie Kristel is appropriately
subdued as the lamenting Penelope, never giving up hope that her missing
husband will return home. Tella Storey’s fiery Clytemnestra, and Ashley
Salmon-Wander’s bitter, avidly adolescent Electra also resonate.
I was not crazy about the costumes. They are too generic
and dowdy, and so altogether similar that they undermine the dramatic point
– these are all strong women, but they are very different. The set too,
while I appreciated the center-stage revolving door, was imperfect and
bothersome. Mostly, the production needed none of the enacted nods to the
ancient stage. The masks, the labored choreography, and the lamenting
motions were completely unnecessary. NOTHING OF ORIGINS works so much
better as a modern commentary. It is in the present, with a respectful nod
back, that it flourishes.
NOTHING OF ORIGINS completes Studio 42’s season (next
stop, the second annual Starving Artists Ball), and OYL is working on a
remount of their production of LOOK BACK IN ANGER, so plan ahead to
experience more artistry from these two impressive companies.
- Kessa De Santis -