“Prometheus Bound” at CityLit is a world premiere translation by Nicholas Rudall of the classic (which may or may not have been) written by Greek playwright Aeschylus. Rudall is Professor Emeritus of Classics at the University of Chicago.
This was originally conceived as the first play in a trilogy. However, the other two are lost to history.
The title character, Prometheus (Mark Pracht), a god, is being punished by Zeus, for giving humanity the knowledge of fire and other “arts.” His punishment is being bound and pinned to a rock is for eternity in one of the far corners of the Earth.
Prometheus is visited periodically by a number of other gods who come to either further his torment or offer solace.
In this production each of the visiting gods, save one, are portrayed by puppets, skillfully manipulated by a puppeteer team that includes Nate Buursma, Antora DeLong, Linsey Falls, Sarah Franzel and Maddy Low.
The clever and fantastical puppet design is by Cynthia Von Orthal of Von Orthal Puppets.
The one non-puppet god is Io, a virgin turned into a cow because she spurned the sexual advances of Zeus, king of the gods. She is now destined to wander the Earth plagued by gadflies who endlessly bite and torment her.
Io is brilliantly played by Kat Evans whose affliction is obvious and non-stop as she moves about endlessly swatting the tormenting insects. Io’s costume is thoughtfully designed by LaVisa Angela Williams.
In a traditional Greek play the story-line is advanced by a “Greek Chorus” which typically consisted of a group of men who would sing or recite elements of the backstory or plot motivations in unison.
In this version, Kingsley Day has composed an imaginative and entertaining score for a chorus of six women (Casey Daniel, Lara Dohner, Jenna Fawcett, Sahara Glasner-Boles, Krista Leland, and Justine Raczy).
The music is so good and their voices so interesting that I would be happy to simply hear them do this in concert.
Mark Pracht (Prometheus) turns in a heroic performance as he actually physically endures the torment of being stuck in one place with his hands and feet bound for nearly 90 minutes while managing to dramatically and, at times,forcefully deliver about fifty percent of the text.
It may be easy to overlook the versatile and talented Charles Schoenherr who, standing to the side in half-light with the chorus, provides the voices for all of the male puppets. He often artfully exchanges dialogue with himself.
Artistic Director/Producer Terry McCabe and team did an admirable job with the conception of this world premiere, though I do not feel that Liz Cooper’s lighting design did everything possible to add to the dramatic effect.
Also, the onstage dancing lights added some much needed movement but became a bit tiresome.
I appreciate the austere set design by Jeremy Hollis but feel that it did not ultimately make Prometheus seem isolated and remote enough. This could be due in part to the size of the space. But that is the challenge.
Congrats to CityLit for staying true to their core mission of presenting “scripted plays by language-oriented playwrights and original material developed especially [for them]” by breathing new life into this nearly 2,500 year-old play.
How exciting to think we are sharing an experience similar to that of our ancient ancestors and finding a universal human kinship across the ages.
DETAILS: “Prometheus Bound” is at City Lit, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Chicago, 2nd floor of Edgewater Presbyterian Church, through June 10, 2018. For tickets and other information call (773) 293-3682 or visit CityLit.