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Published on October 18th, 2012 | by RLn Staff

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Cyclops is Back

By John Farrell, Theater Critic

Our hero is Odysseus,
From Troy he starts for home,
But the Gods, it seems, have other plans
And force his ship to roam.

Okay, set a tune to that verse. If you can’t you must have been living in that cave on Mount Etna which the legendary cyclops inhabited three thousand years or so ago.

The tune is the theme from Gilligan’s Island, and that is part of the way director Andrew Vonderschmitt has decided to tell his version of Euripides The Cyclops, which recently opened at the Long Beach Playhouse’s Studio Theatre.

The Cyclops is the only satyr play to survive intact from the great age of Greek drama circa 580 or so B.C. Satyr plays were comic relief.

After an exhausting day in the Athenian sun enjoying three tragedies in a row the audience was treated to a Satyr play, with the Greek chorus dressed as satyrs and a plot that made fun of everything from cannibalism to anal sex.

Vonderschmitt’s cyclops draws heavily from television and film.  A narrator (Dale Jones), dressed in academic tweeds and with a bookcase and an armchair, introduces the play. He begins to tell the tale of Odysseus with shadow puppets and the help of several satyrs. (Originally they were half-goat and half-man creatures; here, they are men and women dressed as various creatures and carrying hand puppets.)

When Odysseus finally enters the cave of cyclops, dressed in a helmet that looks a lot like Darth Vader, you get the idea. When he removes the helmet to reveal the thick glasses and curly hair of Paul Bouyear, the joke is obvious. Skip Blas, who wrote the lyrics for the show’s parody song, is the cyclops, with a one-eyed mask above his own comic face: he actually has three eyes.

Not everything in this pleasant retelling works out quite as humorously as it might have been, but the play is cheerful, full of fun, and, just in case you need another glass of wine, short.

So now our tale’s completely done
The story has been told
The credits roll, the lights come on,
The movie rights are sold.
Although we borrowed heavily
From a 60′s show you know
Our saving grace we’re pleased to say,
No three hour show,
No three hour show.

Tickets are $24, $22 for seniors and $15 for students. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. Sundays through November 10.
Details: (562) 494-1014; www.lbplayhouse.org.
Venue: Long Beach Playhouse Studio Theater
Location: 5921 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach

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