We had the extreme pleasure of checking out Lookingglass Theatre's production of the Greek myth, Hephaestus, on Friday night. When we first read the original myth, in preparation for the show, it described Hephaestus as lame. Of course, being 21st century kids, Sagezilla and Du-Jay had only heard this word used in the context of boring or uncool. They were quite surprised to learn that it can also mean someone with an injured leg.
Granted, Hephaestus was indeed crippled, but Lookingglass' production of Hephaestus was anything but 21st century lame. The fantastic drumming, incredible costumes, aerial gymnastics and gasp inducing wire work, kept everyone entranced. All of us were mesmerized and completely blown away by this phantasmagorical tale. Lookingglass expertly brought the ancient myth to life in a vibrant, full sensory show, that we highly recommend for all ages.
Sagezilla's broken ankle, from advanced gymnastics, will be in a cast for a month, so this was a timely production for us to see, since it featured a cast full of accomplished gymnasts, and a main character on crutches, like her!
We were impressed with the actors' circus skills, from the ethereal scarf work of the sea nymphs, to the seductive contortionist dance of Aphrodite, the wire work of Hera, Iris, and Aries, and the funky floor routines of the silver girls and guys. The music was so great that it took half the show before the kids realized the only one who speaks is the child narrator, who reads and sings the cast out of her mythology book, to drowned out the sounds of her parents' fights.
This is a return engagement for Tony Hernandez, Lookingglass' Hephaestus, who has now played the part 5 times, and is listed as the shows creator. Each time, the production has evolved and grown. However, it's the narrative that elevates this show far above a mere circus display of human skills. Certainly the astounding circus tricks and balancing acts are there, but they all serve the greater god of story telling, and what a story it is.
After Hephaestus' Mother, Hera (worst Mom EVER), threw him off Mount Olympus, he fell so long, that he was grown by the time he hit the ocean. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, Hephaestus constructed amazing metal pipe crutches to get around and then invented leg braces for himself, and honed his magical, metal forging skills to create an army of solid silver automatons to help him with his metal work.
He goes on to exact revenge on his Mother, with a throne that imprisons her in shackles. Once he finally forgives and releases her, he creates elaborate gifts for the gods and goddesses, and eventually regain his rightful seat on Mt. Olympus. Hephaestus is the only god to be kicked out of and return to Mt. Olympus.
Lookingglass makes fabulous use of the high ceilings at the Goodman space. In the opening scene, rain drums steadily down and Hephaestus is depicted falling in slow motion from the distant top of the performance space all the way down and through a sizable open trap door. A short while later, he plummets again, the length of the space, in a lightening fast free fall and splash down. We were most amazed by the culminating act of the show, a moving seven person pyramid, that advanced across the high wire! It's impressive on YouTube, but you haven't seen it properly till they're passing precariously, directly over YOUR head.
Sagezilla's favorite character was the playful, childlike Iris, played by Erendira Vazquez Wallenda. She performed stomach lurching aerial feats on a high, suspended swing. Most of the characters were quite serious, but she beamed at everyone from a rainbow of colored lights, as she descended, to bring a message to Hephaestus.
I loved the silverguys and girls with their acrobatics and drumming, that so effectively evoked a forge inside an ancient volcano. Coincidentally, they displayed yet another, differently pronounced, definition of lame--fabric interwoven with metal. They were silver from head to toe, with metallic fabric, but again, they too were the antithesis of boring or uncool!
Lookingglass has extended their run, but they must close June 20th. Tickets are available on their website. Also, check out their blog and friend them on Facebook for information about discounts, special offers, and occasional ticket give aways. This Lookingglass Circus link will give you more preview videos and more press.
Shows run June 10-13 and 17-20. Weeknight shows are at 7:30, Saturdays 3:00 and 7:30, Sunday 3:00 only.