The Penelopiad has a light touch on heavy matters

GBTS students tastefully spin on sexuality and death in Margaret Atwood’s retelling of Odysseus

George Brown Theatre School (GBTS) has done it again with a fantastic performance of Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad.

The play is a comedic retelling of Homer’s Odysseus, told from the perspective of Penelope (Kyrah Harder) about her brief time with her husband, Odysseus (Gabriella Albino). Doomed to spend eternity in Hades, she tells the audience about the trials and tribulations of her life and the events that led up to her death.

Alongside Penelope are her 12 maids who tell their story of being faceless slaves. The maids are owned by their masters and speak of having no freedom as well as the events that led to their untimely deaths at the hands of Odysseus.

GBTS cast the production nicely and each of the actors were perfect for the role they played. Harder embodied Penelope to a tee and was more than capable of portraying the character’s growth from being timid and shy to being bold and empowered.

The rivalry between Penelope and her cousin Helen (Caroline Bell) was done in a way that the audience could feel the envy that Penelope feels, while also falling for Helen’s charms.

While Odysseus is mostly a silent role, Albino easily conveyed the character’s emotions, wants and desires through her body language. She also showed her character’s progression through the play from a young man to an older war hero, who uses his cunning wits to lead him to victory.

But the highlight of the show was the synchronicity the maids had during their scenes in Hades. Here, the maids delivered a surreal and memorable scene without using actual words. Through whispering, humming, moans, hissing, and other sound effects, the chorus of maids transported the audience to the underworld of Hades.

The GBTS production gracefully handled some sensitive subject matter within the play. The Penelopiad deals with a lot of death and sexuality and the GBTS production these touchy themes it in a way that the audience understands exactly what is going on, but doesn’t feel too uncomfortable.

And then there are moments where the audience is meant to feel uncomfortable and they do this in a way that tasteful, but still powerful.

The Penelopiad is playing at the Tank House Theatre (50 Tank House Lane) in the Distillery District until April 22. Tickets are still available for all showings and can be purchased online. Tickets are $8 for students (ID required), $15 for alumni and seniors, and $20 for adults.

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The Penelopiad has a light touch on heavy matters